The pharmacist rang up the medicine for treating the thrush in my infant daughter’s mouth. I stood nervously holding her. I hated this part, but I swallowed my pride and said, “I need to put it on a charge.” He looked at me awkwardly, “We don’t use charge accounts here. You have to pay with cash, check, or use a credit card.” There was nothing to say. I was completely defeated. I turned and walked away, holding our infant daughter Emily close to me. There was no choice but to let the tears fall so that I could see where I was going as I made my way out the door and towards my car. My child was ill and I had no way of helping her. There was no adrenaline saying, “Go home, regroup, and figure it out. Get it together!” I was simply defeated.
“Mam!” The male voice came from behind. I closed my eyes, swallowed my pride again, and turned around. The pharmacist’s face was filled with agony and something more as he thrust the bag toward me, “Take it.” I offered nothing. I couldn’t speak, and simply accepted the bag and turned back around. Looking back, I remember his face clearly, but still can’t identify what exactly I saw in that expression, Shame? Pity? Disgust? I know I’m forever grateful, and yet, will always be plagued by my broken spirit when I recall that day.
It had been a week from hell. The events that brought me to that point created a perfect storm of implosion, leaving me with unforgiveness in my heart that was silently giving way to resentment. Looking back, I understand the motives behind my husband’s actions. The fact is, I don’t believe there were options for him. He hated having his family so far away when he had first come to Fargo to seek employment. I didn’t help matters by asking, “When?” every time we spoke. He hated having us live in my parent’s home for the third time in our three and a half-year marriage. We were, now three and a half years and three little girls into our lives together. So, he had taken an advance in wages. Knowing I would protest, he hadn’t told me, and there was no way of knowing how long it would take to save the money necessary to get us here. He had no other thought but to get us here. At the time, I was pregnant with the infant I was strapping into the car seat in the parking lot of Cashwise grocery store. I had often noticed the deduction on his paycheck stub and questioned it. He would go back to work and stave off his employer for a few more weeks. Finally came the day when there was no pay check. I found out in the worst possible way.
I was doing our every-other week grocery shopping when my check was denied. “But, there’s money in the account. I know there is,” I had protested. Yet the check was denied. I went home in a panic, “Our check bounced at Cashwise.” He must have been in sheer panic, as he denied knowledge as to why that had happened. He said he would check into it. A couple of days later, I called the bank. There hadn’t been any deposit beyond the daycare checks I had received. There had to be a mistake. Lyle continued to deny knowledge. He had been trying to fix it, working on a deal between a friend in Bismarck and the owner of a vehicle in Grand Forks, a vehicle that the friend in Bismarck wanted so badly that he would be willing to pay a finder’s fee. It had fallen apart, and he had to come clean. I was dumbfounded. I was furious.
We made the groceries that I had been able to purchase at the first store stretch, living on pancakes and sausage, macaroni and cheese, and other low protein high starch meals that were so inexpensive to make. We had diapers enough to get us through. This must have taken place before the medical assistance was in effect. I suppose it was the impetus that propelled me into action to get the medical assistance for Emily. Because she had Downs syndrome, she would always qualify once it was in effect, regardless of our income.
In our typical style, we would eventually recover from this. We did the only thing we knew how in order to get through difficult times. We played. We became friends again and glossed over the problem by playing Monopoly for hours, laughing, and recalling better times. We made plans for a better future. We got back on our feet again and carried on.
But in that moment of complete defeat, as I strapped Emily into her car seat, tears falling on her little hoodie, a woman with a baby of her own approached me, “Do you need anything? Diapers? Food?” Jeez, I groaned inwardly. She must have witnessed my shame. I had been so lonely since we came to Fargo. I hadn’t a need for anything she could purchase for me, so I blurted out the one thing I needed more desperately than anything else at that moment, “I need a friend.” I stood, at one of the lowest moments in my life, in that parking lot, the door of the backseat still open where Emily sat crying in her car seat, with the arm of a perfect stranger around me, and bawled.