We went to college together. He worked at a hardware store. His parents were illegal immigrants who didn’t speak a lick of English. He was born in Prattville, but spoke with a Latino accent.
His high school counselor helped him choose a career path. He joined the Marines, got a few tattoos, served his country, then enrolled in college on the GI bill. Today, he has a wife, two children, and he’s an engineer. He cares for both elderly parents.
He told me once, “My father come to this country so I have opportunities. Taking care of them is the least I can do.”
She was pretty, but she always looked tired. You would too if you worked three jobs. Two waitress jobs. One cleaning hotel rooms.
Her sister was sick. Bedridden. When my friend wasn’t cleaning rooms or bussing tables, she was swapping shifts with her mother to care for her.
When her sister finally passed, she told me, “I wish I could’a done more for her.”
His parents were drug dealers. They were rough customers. As a five-year-old, he spent one year living in a tent before they got arrested. When they were hauled off to prison, his grandparents gained custody of him.
Suddenly, he had his own room. A television. He watched all the Westerns he could stand. When he got older, he decided to try his hand at junior calf riding, and team roping. He was awful. Anyway, he’s a school teacher now.
He saw his father recently, he treated him to breakfast. His father told him, “After all I put you through, I want you to know I’m proud’a you.”
His father overdosed a few months thereafter.
She’s been married forty-eight years now. Twelve years ago, her husband’s tremors started. It was Parkinson’s. Today, he can’t get a spoon to his mouth, or walk without help. He’s in diapers. She is his caregiver.
She tells me, “My life is rewarding, but it’s hellish work.”
Hellish, but noble.
Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend. He tells me he’s a workaholic, hellbent on climbing a corporate ladder. He’s proud of himself. He’s got a summer home and a car that costs more than my liver. But he’s unhappy. He’s had three wives already. He says all three heartaches were their fault because,—in his own words—“everyone is so frickin’ selfish.”
I’m sorry that’s been his experience. God knows, there are lost souls in the world who would slice your throat just to get ahead.
Even so, until they bury me, I’ll keep believing those folks are outnumbered.