She took my vitals in the exam room. She was in her sixties. Rough skin, a laugh that sounded like unfiltered Camels.
She unstrapped my Velcro cuff and said my blood pressure was good.
Then she high-fived me.
“So,” she said. “You got foot problems, huh? I got bad feet, too. You must work long hours.”
I’ve been lucky. Men like my daddy worked long hours. My grandfather: self-flagellated.
She’s a lot like them. She’s worked since she age ten. At this stage, she’s supposed to be enjoying the easy life. It’s not working out.
“I moved to the beach to relax,” she said. “But I don’t get to. Too busy working.”
Her daughter is in her mid-twenties. She was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. It made her slow. If that’s not enough, the girl also has heart trouble—undergoing open heart surgery twice. She is also half deaf.
Life hasn’t exactly been hopscotch.
“I’ve prayed a lot,” she said, “When she was a baby, I’d say, ‘God, if you want Rachel to live, she will.’ He must’ve known I needed her.”
Times were tight. She worked as a mail carrier in middle Georgia to make ends meet. Then, a friend suggested she get a job as a medical tech.
“I worked at Emory for years,” she said. “Loved it. It helped us get ahead, moneywise.”
And then, a vacation to the beach changed everything. Nowhere before had the two felt so at home.
“My daughter was like, ‘Mom! I wanna live here, it’s so beautiful!'”
So, she sent out resumes. She got a job half a mile from the Gulf. Life was still hard, but at least now it was pretty, too.
“High school was a challenge,” she said. “College was worse. She has to work harder than you’n me. Sometimes I wanted to intervene. But, I knew she needed to learn to stand on her own feet.”
Her daughter just finished college last year. She’s an English major. To celebrate, they took a cruise to Mexico. The girl brought along her new boyfriend.
“My daughter thinks he might be the ONE.”
She showed me cellphone images of a lanky girl and boy. They wore bathing suits and held drinks with little umbrellas. Goofy smiles.
“Lord knows,” she said. “Rachel needs somebody who’s prepared to care for her. I won’t be around forever.”
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do when my baby leaves, she’s been my whole life.”
Well, I don’t know what you’ll do, ma’am. But I do know one thing.
It’s time to get off those aching feet.
And go to the beach.