The world’s most remarkable human? Easy. Meet Paige Perry. She is 33 years young. She is a caregiver to multiple persons.
You’d like Paige. Everyone does. She is sweet. Brunette. Pretty. She has a personality so pleasant she makes Santa Claus look like a jerk.
Paige lives in Adamsville, Alabama (pop. 22). And although she has every right to be disgruntled with the universe, she isn’t.
Paige’s whole life consists of caregiving. From sunup to sundown. Caregiving. She eats, sleeps, and breathes caregiving. If you were to look up the word “caregiver” in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, you would see a picture of Paige, waving at you.
And yet somehow, every time you meet her, she is always in a great mood. To be around her is to be happy. She is always cracking jokes. Always smiling. Always laughing.
She listens more than she talks. She hugs often. Dogs and children follow her around.
In short, Paige has a great personality.
And like my mother used to say: “If you want to get ahead in this world, Sean—” My mother always called me Sean. “In this life, Sean, you must be extremely smart or you must have an extremely pleasant personality.”
Well, that’s exactly what Paige is. She is pleasant.
Heaven knows she has every right not to be. Namely, because her primary role in life is taking care of her father, who has dementia, and her older brother, C.C. who has cerebral palsy. Before that, she was a caregiver to her mother.
Paige is like every caregiver you’ve ever known. She cooks, she cleans, lifts, strains, carries, transports, schedules doctors appointments, wipes backsides, bathes, grooms, changes soiled sheets, pays the bills, and does the grocery shopping.
Oh, and somehow she manages to tie down a full-time job.
That’s right. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. Paige is a full-time hospice nurse. She spends her weeks helping people die. Before that, she was a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, and a nurse at UAB Hospital.
She is the kind of sweet nurse you hope you get when you are stuck in a hospital pallet. And I speak from experience. I once had a routine surgery wherein a grumpy nurse named Wilma installed my urethral catheter. I had a near-death experience and began speaking in tongues.
So her brother, C.C. depends on her. C.C. needs his sister to feed him, bathe him, keep his wheelchair battery charged, help him use the restroom, help him watch baseball and football, and to make sure he is supplied with a sufficient amount of bourbon.
I am not kidding about the bourbon. Even though Paige and C.C. are Church of Christ, C.C. enjoys being filled with the spirits.
Whenever I see C.C., usually at a Birmingham social event, such as a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish, or an event for Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults, C.C. often has a sippy cup filled with Wild Turkey.
“Oh, Paige,” C.C. often says. “I need a refill.”
Above all, Paige is my friend. She would die of embarrassment if she knew I had written this. But the reason I am telling you about her is because she only has one car. It’s a van. And it’s on its last leg.
You should see Paige’s van. The vehicle is wheelchair accessible, and it’s falling apart. The thing is held together purely by duct tape and prayer.
Whenever the clunky automobile comes rumbling into a parking lot, the thing makes more noise than a tambourine salesman riding on the railroad tracks. Everyone within earshot always turns to watch the backfiring white van pull into its parking space.
Whereupon, everyone then watches as Paige muscles her older brother from the backseat. Then, they watch as this beautiful young woman gets her brother situated in a wheelchair.
They watch as she kisses her brother’s forehead and tells him she loves him. They watch her. And they marvel.
Recently, Paige has been looking for a used van in the newspaper to replace her current van. But wheelchair accessible vans don’t exactly grow on trees. Moreover, they aren’t cheap.
A few weeks ago, she found one for sale. It was in decent shape. The thing only had a few hundred thousand miles on it. She got excited.
Paige scrimped her money together and was about to make an offer when the van was sold from beneath her.
It was a crushing blow.
“But I’m not going to get disappointed,” said a cheerful Paige, wiping a single tear from her eye. “God must have something better in store for us. So I’m just going to trust that something will work out.”
But then, that’s what you’d expect the world’s most remarkable human to say.