One of the reasons I really like walking rather than taking the bus is because when I’m walking I get to meet some of the most amazing people. Like on the way home from the store. Well, it was about 9am. And as I walking down this street. Across the street there were two younger people, a man and a woman. Watching them for about 30 seconds I could tell that they had “jake leg”. Which is a term that describes how a serious alcoholic will walk, with the jerk movement to their stride. So, I immediately waved and said, “good morning! Gonna be a hot one over the next few days. “ And…
Well the funny thing about what most people call by so many names, and I call simply, “the cast outs” , is that they pretty much think that they are invisible. And for the most part they are. But not to me.
So, when I said that. The man looked over and smiled. The kind of smile that someone has who is drowning and suddenly someone throws them a line. And he said, “it sure is.”. And I said, well it’s going to be 92 by Monday.” The woman who was just going through the afterward process of having a child… well her eyes shot wide open.
So I walked over. And the young mother, in her thirties looked at me and said that she just had a caesarian three days ago. And they were on their way to buy some milk. Which I knew was not the case. Because when I went up to them, I knew that they not only had “jake leg”. They had wet brain as well. So I told them about how it was going to be hot. And that they need to be careful with the heat. And again the mother’s eyes shot wide open. So I told them about my darling Aileen. And I simply said, “you know she was an alcoholic and yet, I never looked at her that way. “ That’s all I said. Nothing else.
And the man, who I think was a couple of years older, looked at me, and said, “We’re both alcoholics”. And I said, well “that’s a tough choice now isn’t it. “
The mother’s face remained placid. But the man, actually got tears in his eyes. And he said. “yes. It really is.”.
Well, the young mother was having some trouble standing. And they had nothing. But offering them any real help would, for them, be no help. So, I told them to just be careful of the heat. And the mother began to walk on. Perhaps about 10 yards. But the man staid right where he was. And I looked him in the eye. And I said. I know for a fact that what you are going through is the toughest choice in your life. I know that’s true. And I know that pulling away from some of those choices gets so damn confusing that you just about don’t what to do. But remember. Okay. Really. It’s only a choice. Okay?”
And he looked at me, with tears welling up in his eyes. And he said, “well.. I mean, it’s not like. I mean… what I’m trying to say…”
Taking his hand in mine I said. “relax. It’s okay. Honestly. It’s okay. I know the choices get so hard sometimes. But things seem to always happen for a reason. Okay? So, remember, they’re just choices. Okay. That’s all they are. And they really aren’t that hard if you stand back a bit and take a second look. right?” and I nodded at the woman.
And he looked right in my eyes and said… “I think maybe you’re right…”.
Will that one encounter stop them from destroying the life of that new born baby? Will it stop them from destroying their own lives by poisoning themselves to the point where walking becomes a problem. Will it stop them from destroying each other? No. Probably not.
But… will that one encounter at the very least give one of them the courage to remember what they said to me, “I think maybe you’re right.”. I have to say, from working with drug victims like I have over the years, that the answer to that question is … probably yes.
That at the very least…… at the smallest level, the one that is so often the hardest to see… at least one of the two will remember that perhaps their choice to move where there are is just a choice. And if one of them remembers, then, perhaps a very tiny possibility exists that from remembering what he said to me. Just maybe, just perhaps, at some moment when he least expects it, he’ll remember what I said. “it’s only choices right?”. And perhaps, in the slightest of chances, when he remembers that, he might make a different choice.
That’s why I like walking. Okay. For that one very small reason.
It only takes one word to save someone’s life. And it only takes one word to push them over the edge. If I’m on a bus, or some other transportation, I can’t be walking, slowly, whistling, showing how much I celebrate life. And meeting some of the most amazing people in the world. And these two are amazing. For one the mother is up on her feet, albeit wet brained, with in two days of having a caesarian. And that is amazing. I once delivered a child when I was on one of the Native American reservations years ago. Aileen had a caesarian. And I've seen how it works on mothers afterwards. So while most who walk by those two might see all sorts of things. I see something else.
I always have.
When I’m out walking, and whistling like I do all the time, and have all my life. some people think I look stupid. Others think I’m like showing off. And a host of other things probably. None of what are true. Because people who have known me as far back as when I went to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Even at Southern Arizona School in Tucson, Arizona know that no matter what, when I’m out walking, unless it in some part of the wildness where things need to be sort of quiet, because of animals in the area or for some other reason. They always know if they hear someone whistling, it’s probably me.
So, I whistle when I’m out walking. For one… well, I’ve always believed that the words, “make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, was only half true. Because, after my operation and watching the “sacred 9” die that year. What I felt was really the thing I had to do most was to always make “a grateful noise unto the Lord.”. A sound of gratitude. for another day. Another breath. Another amazing encounter of one kind or the other.
So, in my neighborhood I whistle and talk to everyone. Regardless who they are. Sort of like fishing. You throw the line in. Sometimes you get a fish. Other times you get an old tire. But that’s life. And in my neighborhood beset with drug dealers, street gangs and drug addicts. I whistle. And I watch. And I look. And I learn. And I say, “hello”.
Sometimes I might walk up on a drug addict on they way to their next fix. And all I’ll say is… “Good morning. Nice day today isn’t it?” . When I do, if It’s a drug addict that I’m walking up on. Their eyes always become amazing. For in the midst of their constant turmoil, there’s a small spark. just a glimmer. It usually lasts only for a few seconds. But it’s there. And their eyes focus for a second. And when I see that, the next thing I pretty always say is, “you know. I’ll bet it’s sort of nice to have someone stop and say hi, isn’t it?”
then the miracle happens. Because they always, and I mean, always say, “yes”.
I look at these rather, to most, unseemly encounters as some of the greatest honors of my life. Because so many of these people wander inside themselves, facing the same choices that so many of us have. But for them. The choices are huge. For them the choices become so confusing. So confounding that they end up becoming sort of twisted around inside their heads. To the point where the choice becomes really hard. And sometimes. Well, sometimes, if someone just walks up and says “hello”. It’s sort of like light goes on inside of them. And then, just like today. Perhaps, that light might just have enough energy, so that perhaps days later or weeks later. Or at some point. Something from my simply saying hello, might spark a kind of small light, for a second or a moment. And therein, perhaps. Just maybe. Maybe that choice that seems so hard. Just might not seem as hard. That’s the miracle.
So I walk. And most people see my gamey left leg. And then they see that I’m really pretty much a big guy. And then… well, instead of just nodding and walking by. I always say “hello”. and I’m always whistling. So, no matter what or where. They will know that if they hear that whistling. they will know it’s me. And they’ll know that out of all the people they might meet. If they meet me, they’ll always meet a friend.
That, like I said. To me is a miracle.
I suppose some might say about me, that in my life I have saved, I guess, a lot of lives. And maybe that’s true. But I never look at that way. Because I don’t measure myself in terms of how many lives I save, or how much good I do. I always measure myself on just doing the best I can every day to simply be … Me.
And I’m here to tell you. that’s a hard job a lot of the time. But, as I have said. My mom didn’t use all her energy on December 30, while dying, to walk that one solid mile to the hospital, while in labor with me, and my sister because she had some unrealistic dream. She walked that mile, while dying, because she knew, in her heart that doing that was her most important purpose in this world. That she knew if she was gong to die. She was going to do all she could to make sure, even if it meant she would not make it, that her baby, me and my sister, at least might.
Well, my sister, as I have explained didn’t make it. Neither did my Mom. But then, neither did my darling Aileen. And those two incredibly brave and amazing ladies didn’t die so that I would “Not” do what they died for. they died so that I “would” do what they died for. “celebrate” life. So I do.
And I always have. Perhaps, in the scheme of things that makes me look like a fool or stupid. Well, okay. That’s fine. But in my heart I know the reality of my life. I know my baggage. I know my failings. And from that, I know that no matter who I meet, or who I say hello to, that I am always never better than the worst person at their best moment. And I am never worse than the best person at their worst moment. And if keep that in sight. Then, I know. Well, I know that I’m doing what Mom wanted. And I know I’m doing what Aileen wanted. And I know, regardless of all the religious junk. I’m doing what God wants me to do. To be a friend. to always be a friend.
Where others might find reasons not to. I don’t. Because that’s my job. To be a friend. It’s always been my job. Ever since the “Sacred 9” died. I promised “Rosy”, before she died. That 3 year old little girl in the hospital that my dad and I tried to adopt because her parents had been killed in a car wreck and she had no mom or dad. I Promised her that I would look after, as she put it, the others. And just like my promises to my darling Aileen. My promise to Rosy is one that I have always kept, and made sure to follow. It’s one of the most important promises I have made in my life, right along side of course, my promises to my darling Aileen.
Which is why, 4 months after Aileen died. She came to me one night saying that she found Rosy. And I told her to give Rosy a big huge hug from me. Tell her I’ve never forgotten my promise to her.
Two nights later Aileen comes to me again… but only briefly. And all she said was, “Mickey. She knows you have kept that promise. And she and your mom helped me to find my children. Just like you said…”
Because before Aileen died, she asked me one night what she was going to do. And I told her.
Leen my darling. Find Mom. Find her. She’ll help you. And then Find Rosy. Between those two. You’ll always be fine. Okay. Just find Mom. Start there sweetheart. Find Mom. She’s there Leen. Really. I know she’s there. And she’s on the lookout for you. Okay. Just look for Mom. And it will be just fine… I promise.
So if people think of me one way or the other. That’s okay by me. God knows my heart. And God knows my soul. And so does my Mom. And Rosy. And of course my darling Aileen. These amazing women, died for me. they gave their lives so that I could live. They died, for different reasons and under different circumstances. But I’m still here. And I’m still here because they died. And that didn’t just happen. It happened for a reason. I know that. I know that as surely as I know my name. Because the one thing that these three amazing women all had in common, besides their amazing courage and their unbelievable strength in the face of the worst of what life can do to any soul. In the face of all that… they were, and ever shall be … a friend. A friend to everyone. To life. To all those who are part of the unseen or the uncared for.
And so, with no hope or agenda. No bible thumping. Nothing. I am the same. For I am a product of their lives and their struggle. I am what they died for.
In the past I have stated that the 3 year old little girl in the hospital who died from having her back broken in 3 places and having lost her mother, was Jenny. But that way my mind playing tricks on me. Because when Rosy died, it took me over 10 years to stop crying for her. It took me 10 long years, going through some of the darkest times in my life. Of all the “Sacred 9” who died that year in the ward in 1968. Rosy. Rosy was the one who I tried the hardest to save. To help. To do all I could. And yet, could do nothing. So over the years, especially after my nervous breakdown in 1989. I’ve had trouble remembering her name correctly. The fact that I can remember it now so clearly. well, that speaks volumes about how my darling Aileen, on the other side not only found Rosy. But that they are with my Mom. So, her name was Rosy. One of the most amazing women I had ever met in my life at the time. Her name was Rosy.