Angels seem to be everywhere lately! My neighbor, friend and artist, Jo Petty, gave me this beautiful, “bright, shiny” angel for my 50th birthday. The title of her painting, Shhh … I’m Here, was both poignant and instrumental in my desire to share with you, my dibbuns, my guardian angel story of miraculous events. I am hoping and praying that you will all have miracles, both small and big, in your lives and that you will allow yourselves to be awed by the mysterious workings of the universe.
Hope Grows in Rocky Soil!
The hard, cold ground and the woolly, sharp winter is giving way to a new season. Spring sings the chorus of rebirth and new life. All around us are colors and smells of sunshine, warmth and freshness. Possibilities seem endless, and the sweet scent of hope is in the air.
Oh, wait … before I begin, a word of warning. It turns out that for me writing is much like throwing up. Once I start, it is impossible for me to stop until everything that needs to come out is out! So, I have decided to break this story up into three parts. Think of this post as a box of fun-size snickers as opposed to one big one. Of course, you’re going to eat the whole box, but somehow it feels like less! So, little chickadees, get a beverage of your choice, and if possible, go sit outside in the splendor of spring and let’s talk about angels and miracles!
Oma: Noun. Grandmother, Grandma among people of German ancestry. (Interglot .com)
I was unbelievably blessed in my life to have two Omas. I thought of them as my “country” Oma and my “city” Oma. My “country” Oma (my Dad’s mom) lived on a farm in the small prairie town of LaSalle in Manitoba, Canada. The “city” Oma lived in the big city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The house in the city was an amazing three-story house … complete with a turret room that seemed like a castle to us grand-kids.
Some day, we will talk about my “city” Oma, but this story is about my “country” Oma … Oma Wall. Oma Wall passed away when I was 13. I have nothing but warm, lovely memories of her. I’m sure she was human and had faults, but my experience as a granddaughter was that she was a sanctuary of love and comfort. Going to the farm to see Oma Wall was so very special! Oma was an amazing cook and baker of all the ethnic specialites from my culture … platz, porzilche, and unbelievably soft and delicious zwiebach. These were always readily available, and indulging was encouraged.
Oma and Opa’s country house was a rural wonderland for my cousins, siblings and me. There were soft baby kittens and chicks in the Spring, a huge garden full of vegetables, and fields of cheerful, smiling sunflowers. During those frigid, cold Canadian winters on the farm, my Uncles and my Dad took us snowmobiling and skating on the creek.
When you got to spend the night at the farm, after filling your tummy with warm, comfort food, Oma Wall tucked you into bed with cozy flannel, handmade blankets. Sounds of crickets filled the air and the stars shone their brightest at the farm, uninterrupted by harsh city lights. Drifting off to the land of dreams in Oma’s plump, downy beds are some of my loveliest childhood memories.
Fast forward … oh, about 35 years. I am married to Dennis and living in Woodstock, Ga. Dennis had been working as a para-professional in the special ed department at Woodstock High School. In the winter of 2014, Dennis starting unraveling physically. One day at school, the teacher he worked with couldn’t wake him up; he had fallen asleep in his chair helping a student. He was exhausted and his MS was progressing.
We made the painful decision for Dennis to go on disability. He had worked for years when no one else in his condition would have worked. We thought between his Social Security Income and his disability, which we were informed would be 60% of his paycheck, we would be OK. Unfortunately, we were misinformed about the projected 60% disability amount, and it would end up only being $100 a month. Because the disability payments were significantly less than projected, we felt like our world had crumbled beneath us.
Being disabled is unbelievably expensive! Just a few examples … the chair Dennis rides around in costs $26,000. His Botox (no not for his face, for his withering arm) is $3,000 a treatment, every three months. Now that Dennis has had pressure sores, he has necessary expensive bandages. And, our accessible van costs double the price for a conversion van. It’s estimated that it costs $4.1 million dollars in a lifetime for someone to live with Multiple Sclerosis in the United States. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
We have been very fortunate in our lives. Most people in our situation are barely making it; they usually cannot afford the equipment and medications they need and have next to no help. We have had help from family all along the way, and we have done whatever we could to help make ends meet … catering, a tile business, massage therapy, eBay store, working for the tax assessors board, and even running a coffee stand at the local farmers market. We want to support ourselves as much as possible.
We had two choices … one was Dennis could go back to work full-time (which physically wasn’t going to be an option) or, two, I could go back to work (which would involve getting someone to stay with him while I was gone), making it hardly worth my while. Never mind, I would be so exhausted I would have unraveled like a skein of yarn. Dennis and I were so confused; all the signs had pointed to him retiring. Oh, what to do? I remember, vividly, being in the shower looking out my little window that looks up to the sky and saying out loud, “OK, gang up there supporting us … Mimi, Pop, Omas and Opas … any chance you could shake some change loose and do something down here?” I was anxious, but as an unrealistic, optimist wearing my rose colored glasses, I was sure something would work out. How right I was!
Two weeks before this shit show all unfolded, Dennis had a phone call from a woman from Unum Insurance Company. Apparently, she had been looking for us for at least the last 5 years. At our old house, we had received some letters from them, but Dennis knew nothing about the company, so we threw them out! The lady said that Unum had bought out a company where Dennis had taken out a policy 20 years before … a policy he had forgotten all about! It had been a policy his employer had insisted Dennis take out; being as cheap as he is, he bitched about the small cost to be deducted from every paycheck. Unum was doing an audit, and they needed some information. She sounded rather vague and neither of us thought much of it. It seemed like they needed to file some paperwork for their audit, so I filled out the paperwork and sent it back in.
Back to figuring out how Dennis and I were going to live.
A week after the bad news from the county, the lady from the insurance company called back. All those years ago, Dennis had signed up for a policy that would pay if he became a quadriplegic (among other things). WOOOOHOOO! Pop the corks and fire up the pig cooker!!! We were entitled to an extra $800 a month! We were still short, but it was doable. Praise The Lord and pass the Cannollis! Oh wait, she said there is more! What could be better? I thought maybe they were going to send me a nurse entirely devoted to rubbing our feet and watching Masterpiece Theatre with me! Dennis was sitting in bed with the phone on speaker, and I was standing in front of him listening to the conversation. “We sincerely apologize that we have been unable to find you until now, and we also owe you back payment. DRAMATIC PAUSE … … … no, really … she took a very DRAMATIC PAUSE. “You will be receiving a check for $98,000!” I literally fell to my knees crying. I knew something would work out, but not it my wildest dreams did I anticipate this freaking miracle. I remember my entire body was tingling, and Dennis sat there in disbelief … pale and shaken, as if he had seen a ghost. I’m not sure I have ever seen Dennis speechless before!
The name of the Unum Insurance lady who so diligently tracked us down long after others would have given up and checked the can’t locate box, was named Helen Cordosi. OOOOHHHH!! I got chills throughout my entire body when I made the connection. This woman who saved the day, came out of nowhere, and granted my wish shared my Oma Wall’s name … Helen! And, my dibbuns, here’s another tidbit for you … Helen means “bright, shiny” one.
You can say it was a coincidence; that’s fine with me. Sometimes, it seems that life is grey and hard and nothing more than a series of unrelated misadventures, and … sometimes, I might even agree with you. Most days, however, I really truly believe Dennis and I were the blessed recipients of an other worldly movement. Later on in this story, I will add another piece to this.
In my mind, the soul definitely does go on, and if that’s true all those souls floating around us must move things in our favor once in awhile … don’t you think? Sometimes, if you pay attention, you may even be able to feel the feather light, celestial touches of angel wings brushing us as they pass by. I know I felt it on the day Helen called.
Now, I know my dear dibbuns, right now you are all on your knees praying to any dead relatives you can think of, politely asking for some sort of payday. I’m sure you are all imploring Old Aunt Netty who smelled like cats and cough syrup, your Grandpa Winston who had a glass eye he loved to take out at parties, or whoever it is up there, to open their purses and rain down money from heaven, but get up! There is more to my story!
After the BIG news from good old Helen, Dennis and I were on our way, by van, to Canada for a month. Ya, that was my brilliant idea, taking a quadriplegic 26 hours to another country sounds awesome; I mean what could possibly go wrong? Turns out a lot! I literally put a signed check for $98,000 in the night deposit box on our way out of town. Financial crisis averted! I had the love of my life wedged into the van between a toilet chair and a Hoyer lift, and we were on our way to my favorite place on earth, Victoria Beach, Canada. We were giddy with relief, and I checked our bank balance every chance I could just to make sure it had not all been a dream. Oh, and kids, this is very important!! What goes around, most definitely comes around. Right off the top we gave 10% to charity. Not because we are saints, but because that is how the universe works. I don’t make the rules, I just try to follow them.
We entertained ourselves on the long drive by coming up with marvelously frivolous ways to squander our money. Dennis wanted to go to Vegas and put it all on black. I (as usual) was far more reasonable (not). I thought we should take all our money and produce the one woman show I have long dreamed of. Well … no I can’t sing, dance or act. I figured I would put a tiara on my head, take a shot of tequila and wait for the muse of entertainment to arrive. Plus, I JUST WANT TO! And, we’re temporarily rich!!! So many great ideas, and we had lots of time to figure it out, right?
We had been at the cottage for two weeks, and my son and his girlfriend arrived on Saturday night. It was time to fish, play guerrilla monopoly, enjoy my son and family, and bask in the joy of life and stunning prairie sunsets over vast Lake Winnipeg. Sunday morning, Dennis woke up and said “Lee, I have to get up. I have to get up and move, I HAVE TO WALK NOW!!!”. He was frantic and extremely serious. Dennis hadn’t walked in 14 years. Alarm bells were going off inside me; something REALLY scary was starting. The real drama was just beginning …
I am stopping here. Obviously, Dennis is fine. He is in the other room watching some dreadful show with country singers in toupees, who are a breath from death and wearing more sequins than Vegas show girls. He is yelling, “Lee-Lee, when is it time for cookies, cuddling and Netflix?” The rest of this story changed Dennis and I forever … and spoiler alert … more surprises ahead. So until next time, here is an invitation to come see Dennis and I complete task number #6 … Dance with Dennis standing up! Anyone who wants to come is more than welcome, April 28th at 5:00 p.m. in the Woodstock Elementary School park. Please RSVP so I have a ballpark idea of what to expect.
We have figured out a way to hang Dennis from a tree … oh, that doesn’t sound good! We have figured out a way to suspend Dennis from a tree using a harness! Please come join us as we dance in the park. I would love it if you wore pink, but I’m not going to require it (I may secretly think you’re a party pooper though!).
See you then, nuggets!
La Vie En Rose: Life in the pink, or life with rose colored glasses
April 28th, 2018 at the Woodstock Elementary Park at 5 p.m. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
And, never forget …