The morning is cold and clear. I’m waiting in the Food Lion parking lot (not the most scenic place on earth) while Diane has her hair done at the shop next to the grocery store.
An undersized, caramel-colored truck that was probably born in the previous century rolls by and parks three spaces down from my car. It’s a familiar sight. They’re here two or three times a month.
The imprint of ancient lettering on the side of the truck tells me that the owner was a self-employed tradesman once upon a time. The vehicle must have at least a quarter of a million miles on the odometer. It’s reliable, much like the man that owns it. I know his story.
I watch as he gets out of the truck. He’s a tall, sturdy, gray-haired man of about seventy. His passenger appears a bit younger, probably in her mid sixties, although it’s difficult to tell. She’s severely developmentally disabled, able to make sounds and noises, but unable to speak intelligibly. I know this because she and Diane have the same hair stylist, and the stylist likes to talk.
She takes the man’s arm and crosses the parking lot. They move slowly and carefully. I can tell by his movements and his body language that he’s a patient man. He holds the door open and they disappear inside the hair salon.
The man and woman are brother and sister. He has never married, opting instead to care for his sister and give her a home and a life rather than relegate her to a bleak institutional existence. This man is a hero. He receives no public accolades, just the quiet respect from anyone that knows his story.
As a society we salute the work of our teachers, nurses, and social workers. This man is none of those things. This man is all of those things. I have no doubt that he spends his days, his life, trying to teach his sister new things, providing new experiences, helping her to communicate. I’m sure she requires his assistance with her personal hygiene needs. He’s the one to fix the meals, clean the house, do the laundry and shopping, pay the bills, schedule appointments with doctors, dentists, and therapists, and make all the decisions for both of them. He can never leave the house without her.
Many of us will celebrate Christmas in a few days. I hope this brother and sister will have something to celebrate. I wish them peace and joy.