Friday, December 11, 2015

Let's talk about dishwashers and washing machines... and what we do to help others

I have a friend who I love with all my heart who has been through the worst of the worst these past 10 years -- her first born son was killed by a person street racing; the grief and stress broke down her marriage, depression set in; unable to keep working she had to give up her job at a GTA school board as a behavioural therapist working with children with special needs; she lost her house and I took her in, her ex-husband used her homelessness to take her two youngest children away; she met a man who took advantage of her vulnerability and beaten soul to manipulate, abuse and control her; she escaped him, once, fleeing to my house where she stayed for six weeks before learning the court was willing to give her shared custody with her girls if she returned to the relationship; I cried for three days straight after she left. Our bond is one of a kind. I can't put it into words.

Furious that I had helped her escape the first time, her "boyfriend" took away her cellphone, changed all her internet passwords and forbade her from contacting me and banned me from their home. I used to fantasize about driving over there in the middle of the night and taking him on. I was never afraid of him but I always worried what he would do to her if I tried something.

It has taken the past year for her to work up the nerve, build up the strength and put a plan in place to leave him. She did this all by herself. She squirreled away personal items at her eldest daughter's apartment whenever her "boyfriend" would allow her to visit, and then one day this past June, she told her "boyfriend" her youngest daughter had a homework date with a neighbourhood kid down the street on a project that was for school and it was mandatory. She walked both her girls out of the house with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They walked past the neighbour's house and up to a main road so she could hail a cab. With no money, she begged the cab driver to take her to a woman's shelter and he did. I've been unable to track down this cab driver so I could personally pay him for the almost one hour drive and most importantly, to thank him.

In three months, she managed to secure housing, financial assistance, enroll her girls in a new school, found a lawyer to help deal with the custody issues and is learning to survive on $490 a month. Three days after she moved in, I ransacked my house and filled my car with towels, blankets, pillowcases, furniture and drove it all to her. Halfway there, I stopped at a co-worker and good friend's house whose husband handed me over a box of pantry staples and bags of clothing and bedding. When I got to my friend's house, she was so overwhelmed with my car full of stuff we just stood on the driveway for a long time hugging each other (it had been three years since I'd seen her) while she struggled not to break down. I told her how proud I was of her. I told her I just wanted her safe.

I took her second eldest daughter shopping for winter boots. I bought bulk cereal and laundry baskets. I sat down with her and worked out a grocery budget. I helped wash clothes by hand in her kitchen sink and we draped them all over the house to dry, all the while saying, this isn't funny now, but when we're old and gray, we'll remember the day we did this and laugh. We discovered we could dry socks and underwear in the oven at the lowest temperature. I drove home and began to think about Christmas and washing machines.

When I returned from vacation, my husband broke the news that our dishwasher had died. It had been a long, drawn-out death and finally this past Saturday night, its pump just stopped (it had already had a transplant in the summer) and Chad respected my do not resuscitate order. It went out with a bang by throwing up spaghetti sauce filled water all over our wood floor. While shopping for a new dishwasher, I decided we would also replace our washing machine and give our old one (which is six years new) to my friend.

While I was walking around Home Depot, it wasn't lost on me how lucky I am to be in a position to make a decision to replace a working appliance just because I can.

I can't fix everything that has gone wrong in my friend's life. If I can make things more comfortable for her, I will. My other friends who know of her have kindly offered up furniture, clothing, a turkey, electronics, shoes and toiletries. My friend worries people are pitying her, or feeling sorry for her.

They're not.

I know you are reading this. You're my best friend. There's no judgement. There's no pity. Where others have abandoned you, I have stayed the course. I may not have agreed with some decisions you may have made, but no way am I in ANY position to judge. I'm here to help you when you stumble. Others want to simply lift you up.

All I want is for you to have some personal comforts this Christmas, some presents for your girls to open, food on the table and a washing machine humming away in the basement.

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