Isabar3 months ago
That could have been me, in NYC in the late 80's, walking past my my oldest sister.
She was born mentally and physically handicapped, has the mind of a 12 year old, back then she lived on the street, spending her days sitting by the altar at St Francis--praying and embroidering old rags, her nights anywhere she wanted.
She had wanted to be a Franciscan nun, never understood why they didn't want her. She loved the brown hooded robes with the white cord. I had a dressmaker sew a dozen brown habits for her. She wore them all the time. The Franciscan priests didn't like it.
Parishioners would invite her to spend the night at their homes, and she would--for a day or two, then move on. She didn't trust anyone.
Walking past her I would have been cautious, hoping she would not run away. She would be thinking I was coming to take her home by force (I wasn't).
Sometimes she would stand still and I, keeping my distance, would tell her about doctors appointments I had set up for her, and that she had a home to come to whenever she wanted.
She couldn't read or write, but she always kept those doctors appointments.
I wanted her to be safe with us, not living on the street, but I also knew she was so paranoid and suspicious of her own family, she would never again want to live with us. She had most of her life, and it had been very painful for her--we never knew how to deal with her condition.
Back then, living on the streets, she had never been happier. She was free, going anywhere she wanted, carrying shopping bags filled with her precious possessions others would call junk.
I did what I could for her, and for other homeless people in the city. I worked with a homeless organization.
When Giuliani became city Mayor, she was sent sent to Bellevue, against her will, during a round up of mentally ill homeless. It took me years to get her back to Florida where I lived by then. During the transition she broke her hip, which went misdiagnosed for days.
After the surgery she never walked again.
Today she lives in nursing home, severely crippled. She looks forward to my visits.
Take me around the block sister, she says when she sees me. When are you coming back?
I just got here, I say, pushing her wheelchair. Your birthday is coming up May 3rd. I'll bring you a cake.
Blue, she says. I want a blue cake.