It is not often I am without words. In fact, I am not sure it has ever happened before. I have wanted to write this post for days, but couldn’t, because there were no words.
Other senses have left me before – anger once left me sitting on the side of the road in my car, the rush of red behind my eyes making me unable to see. And the day my mother arrived to tell me my sweet, should-have-been sister-in-law was dead, my ears closed to the sound – I saw her lips move, to form the word, but never heard a sound.
This week, I have been rendered mute. Thoughts swirled and my heart swelled, but words just failed me.
We have had a tough decade, my husband and I. There have been too many deaths to count, accidents, loss of income, our bank account was compromised, my mother had a psychotic break due to a rare neurological disease — the list could go on and on.
We have struggled for that decade to get off state aid. There was a lot of it early on, and it dwindled as we took each step up the mountain, trying to reach the peak where we would be allowed room for pride, and rest, and the comfort of knowing we were no longer one catastrophe away from being knocked down to the bottom.
We slid back more than once. Downsizing, injury and unexpected expenses knocked us back. But we kept going.
This Christmas was going to be lean. The compromised bank account and some other nasty, expensive surprises came in 2013. Then on my birthday, exactly one month before Christmas, it began to rain. And it came in – in my office, in the dining room and on top of the dryer. The roof was leaking. Badly.
I waited for my husband to get home from work so I could tell him, but he was late. The tires on our only vehicle had given up, causing a blowout on his way home. We’d planned to buy tires with the Christmas bonus I was hoping to get two weeks later.
The little Christmas money we had tucked away slowed the leak in the roof, but didn’t stop it. It needs to be replaced, and the estimate made me sick to my stomach.
My husband pumped up the lousy spare tire every day so he could get to work.
A friend of my sister-in-law heard about these things, and to help out, bought Q some gifts. Great gifts. One of the two things he wanted most. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to think that this woman I barely know would be so giving.
One week later I nudged the thermostat up against the cold and nothing happened. The boiler was working, our hot water was fine. But no trickle of warmth moved out into the baseboards.
Another unexpected expense. But when the repair man came up from the basement several cold days later to show me the electrical control unit in his hand that needed to be replaced and told me how much it was, I blanched.
I called the company and begged to have them hold a check until the following week. They agreed, but I still felt sick because the only way to cover that check was to skip the mortgage payment. Again.
The unit was installed, the heater ran through a cycle, and for the first time in 4 days the house began to warm. But at the top of the stairs he paused to turn the emergency control switch off.
The unit was fixed, but the boiler was corroded, posing a carbon monoxide risk. He couldn’t legally turn it on. And the estimate for that did me in.
An old friend from high school shipped Q the other main want on his Christmas list. I was stunned by her gift and my heart swelled at the thought that my son would believe in magic for at least another year, not because of me, but because of the generosity of others.
Then I got a check in a Christmas card from a mostly online friend. Again, the generosity of people got me. My bonus had bought the tires, but that check got them mounted and installed. And$15 of it filled my son’s Christmas stocking.
And then we were pummeled some more. My mother in law’s trip to spend Christmas with us was cancelled – she was in the hospital. My husband’s work hours were cut. The power went out in a storm leaving us with no way to heat our house. It stayed out long enough to ruin all the food I had bought to last us through until January 5th.
In the middle of it, on the Winter Solstice, we got a priority mail envelope with a check inside. Nothing on it to identify the sender, just a short handwritten note saying it was from a friend, because they could do it. Then I got another. And another.
Three checks, drawn on three different banks, all with no identification. All for oddly specific amounts. But added together, they equal a singular number that makes me believe that one person enlisted the help of two others to give us what is the most important gift we have ever received.
They rescued us, and I can’t even thank them.
We had gotten to the point that I had only one idea left. But it was a terrible, awful idea. I was going to stop making the house payments altogether. I was going to squirrel away that money towards a rent deposit and let the bank take the house.
I was going to move – away from the vegetable garden and the orange kitchen and the yard big enough for the St Bernard. Away from the school my son loves, and my husband’s job and the big tree that my husband hates, but that I adore.
We need a safe pace to live. A place where I don’t constantly ask my son how he feels, or freak out when he claims a headache and make him sleep with a window open. And we simply couldn’t fix this one.
Now we can. Someone, somewhere gave us this gift. They kept us from tumbling all the way down to the bottom of the mountain.
My gratitude is immense. There are over 1000 words here, but still, not enough.
Thank you. Whoever you are, I hope you see this. You have given us a gift that goes beyond dollars. You have given us our home, faith in people, and the hope that maybe, before it’s over, we’ll come out on the other side.