I walked into the house to the sound of an alarm. I knew that some of the kids were sleeping, and I wondered if they would be awakened by the alarm, but it didn’t seem to have an effect. The screen door had two broken hinges and was being propped open permanently by the stopper arm. I didn’t really notice it at first, because I was wondering about the hot pink paper covering the windows on the door.
The four year old was up and dressed. Her name is Marilee. She told me that they don’t have milk so they are just drinking juice today. It was then that I realized that I had, for the first time, entered into the home of a single mother of 5 to drop off two more kids (my kids) for her to watch while I went to do some work.
This single mother was my mother-in-law, who has five kids (4, 8, 12, 16, and 21) that the night before she took to St. Louis for a Cardinals game, arriving home around 2 in the morning. Four out of the five kids are adopted (the other, the 21 year old, is Autistic and has lived with her since age 9), and she is currently going through a bunch of garbage with her husband, which you can read a little bit about here.
Honestly, this was the first time I noticed anything when walking through the front door. I noticed how hard her life is. I noticed how much work she has always, whether she is at work or at home. I noticed how tired she was. I felt really terrible for asking her to take care of my kids as well. Her life is more than hard. She’s seen too much in her lifetime. She’s done everything she can to give her adopted kids a better life, but everything is just broken. Like the screen door.
I offered to go buy some milk for the day, since my kids as well as hers are all milk consumers, and milk is much healthier than purple drink. I knew she didn’t have the time nor the energy to go to the store. She forced me to take $5 and said, “Are you sure you have enough time to get milk?” This hit me between the eyes. I thought, “Of course I have time. I wish I had more time,” and said, “It’s not a problem at all. The store is just down the street.” She thanked me. This was the first thing I think I’ve done for my mother-in-law since, well, since she became my mother-in-law, that I didn’t feel obligated to do. The first offering of help that I truly meant.
When I returned with the milk, I took a better look at the broken screen door that didn’t really register when I arrived. I told her that my wife and I could help her replace the screen door if she found one she liked. She said she had no idea how to fix it. Her fix-it-man is no longer in the picture, and hopefully that’s for good.
I realized that this woman, this broken, tired, stressed-out, self-less, oftentimes frustrating woman really needs help. Help that I can give.
I’m different today because of the hot pink paper, the alarm, the broken screen door, and the missing milk. I have new eyes.