7:18 P.M.—I’m leaving a beer and oyster joint. It’s dark. I’m strolling through a parking lot. It is a soft rain. The blacktop is shiny from streetlights.
I see her sitting on the curb, in the drizzle. She’s dressed in a server’s uniform. She has weathered skin, hard features, but she is younger than she looks.
I know a hardworking woman when I see one.
“You need a ride?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “Nah, I’ll be okay.”
She’s not okay. She’s stranded. I know polite lying when I hear it.
“I don’t mind giving you a lift.”
I sound like my father. He gave rides to anyone who could fog up a mirror.
He once gave a ride to a young hitchhiker—a cocky Hispanic kid covered in tattoos. My father carried him to church for a free supper. He carried him to church every week thereafter, too.
The kid was at my father’s funeral.
The waitress crawls into my truck. It’s raining hard now.
I apologize for my vehicle interior. It’s disgusting. Food wrappers, bottle caps, coffee-stains, dog hair, empty peanut butter jars.
“It’s alright,” she says. “My daddy and brothers are good ole boys, I’m used to filthy trucks.”
A little about her: she got married to a man with a drug problem. His problem got worse. One night, she took her teenage kids and left.
“Hardest thing I ever done,” she says. “Uprooting and leaving. We came here to make a fresh start. I’d do anything for my kids.”
When she speaks, she stares out the window.
“We’re getting by,” she says. “Got me this job, we’re makin’ it.”
A few months ago, her car tags were long expired. She didn’t know it because her life has been a whirlwind. She got pulled over. They impounded her car.
“Can’t seem to get ahead,” she goes on. “Sometimes, it’s like, no matter how much I work…”
Yeah. I know the feeling. In fact, I grew up with that feeling.
You lose your husband. You do without. You rob Peter to pay Paul. You hawk things. You get a job in food service so you can bring home leftovers for supper.
Her ex-husband went to rehab. She kept in touch with him. She prays for him. He’s clean now, and misses his kids.
So, this weekend, she sent them to visit.
“I’ll never trust him,” she says. “But I ain’t gonna punish him, I don’t want my kids to grow up hating him.”
The word saint comes to mind.
I arrive at her destination. Our conversation ends. Her eyes say she’s tired, she doesn’t have energy to keep talking. She needs supper. A smoke. Sleep.
She God-blesses me.
She’s gone before we even trade names.
But it doesn’t matter. I know her. I know how strong she is underneath that tired face. How gentle she is.
Women like her are a gift to a fallen world like ours. A demonstration of the best mankind has to offer. Some folks might not believe that.
But I do.
Because I was raised by one.
Connie - October 9, 2017 2:07 pm
You did it again. Made me cry at work. I’ve been a reader all my life. I always say I will read anything with words. The cereal box at breakfast, a dictionary, fiction by the barrels full. I enjoy a good story more than anything in the world. I can see places and things I would never see without those stories. Thank you for bringing me a new one every day. Yours are the best kind-true and real.
Jack Quanstrum - October 9, 2017 2:08 pm
Wow! Another great story of the power of the heart and spirit to do good. Unfortunately to many women are in that position but they are gifts from God like this lady and your mom as well as your wife. Have a blessed Sean, for you have blessed mine with this story of good!
Sandra Marrar - October 9, 2017 2:18 pm
Why do you always make me cry? Lord have mercy, your stories are just real life, everyday struggles. Thank you for sharing.
ponder304 - October 9, 2017 2:34 pm
Bless you….I am sure you blessed me!
Jan - October 9, 2017 2:37 pm
Thank you for taking the time to see the real person and then share them with the rest of us!
Josie - October 9, 2017 2:39 pm
You capture the very vibrations of the human soul in your writing.
Sue Cronkite - October 9, 2017 2:40 pm
Sound, solid. Folks like that are what make up the fiber of what’s great about our nation. A shame the ones on top of the gravy train don’t pay a living wage, work people 35 hours, and give no benefits. That’s what’s not great.
Bobbie Mertes - October 9, 2017 3:24 pm
Your words touch people’s heart. You soften mine a little every day.
Maxine Wakefield - October 9, 2017 3:26 pm
You’re a good man Sean and a terrific storyteller. Grips my heart every day as I read your anticipated story. Thanks for sharing life with so many avid followers.
Maria - October 9, 2017 3:50 pm
My brother and I were also raised by a mother who didn’t eat so there could be something on the table for us. God bless
Melodie - October 9, 2017 3:51 pm
Not going to get in to personal detail, but I can relate to this hard working girl, many, many, years ago.
Everyone needs a ‘lift’/ride, every now and then. You helped more than you will ever realize.
Sharon Hand - October 9, 2017 4:42 pm
Ironic that you would title your story “Soft Rain”. My brother-in-law was up from NOLA and he made that same observation. Keep writing the “real” stories.
Sarah Boardman-Miller - October 9, 2017 7:16 pm
Every time I read a post, it reminds me it is okay to be a strong woman. Thank you.
anthonykorey - October 9, 2017 9:29 pm
I.ve known several women like that. I’ve often given them rides, as well. They primarily trusted me, because I wore a police officer’s uniform; and I was off duty, in my privately owned vehicle on my way home.
They really are saints; and I honestly believe that many of them were angels.
Thank you for such a beautiful story.
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - October 9, 2017 10:31 pm
I, too, have known many women like her. Many have old fines to pay. It’s like indentured servitude. Life isn’t fair.
Thomas D Sticher - October 10, 2017 12:10 pm
You touched my heart with this one. I am the middle son of a woman like this. She taught me to think and do for others. She raised 3 boys right by herself. We were never rich, but we got by. Still can’t stop her at 77 years old. Don’t want too…
Thanks : )
Linda Cabot - October 10, 2017 1:19 pm
These comments inspire me and are a blessing to read. Thank you for these wonderful stories you share with us.
Victoria Stennett - October 10, 2017 4:51 pm
Always right on target.
LARRY WALL - October 10, 2017 6:12 pm
You said you were raised by the same kind of woman. As far as I know, and it is my hope, we all were.