I am at an appointment with my Gynecological Oncologist having yet another follow-up exam, and it hasn’t gone well. I don’t remember the diagnosis the doctor has given me, but I am upset. The appointment ends, and I quickly get dressed and walk into the lobby. It appears to be later in the evening than I am expecting. The place is silent, and the lights are turned down low. It feels eerie as I walk through the waiting area toward the slow-moving elevators.
I notice there is a well-dressed couple standing on the edge of the waiting room with dark wool winter coats on, and I instantly get chills anticipating the cold weather that awaits me outside. Moving closer, I see that it’s Barack and Michelle Obama. They are somber, and Michelle has been crying. He looks distraught. They look at me and I see a glint of recognition in their eyes. They know me. I quietly give them my condolences (apparently, I know what their problem is) and they did the same for me. We commiserate for a few minutes and then walk downstairs instead of taking the elevators, which is usually my preference.
Outside, it is black and cold and windy. There is litter being blown around the hospital parking lot and still, we see no one. Walking toward my car, two little girls, probably aged 2 and 4 scurry up to me. They are naked, and dirty, and cold. The two girls must be sisters and they run to me to keep them warm and feed them and hold them. Starved for affection and nourishment. Through tears, I ask them their names; where do they live? how did they get to the hospital? where is their Mommy?
Barack and Michelle are witnessing this from the side of their car as if the display froze them in their tracks and has prevented them from climbing into the waiting warm cabin. I can’t blame them. I fight the urge to grab the two girls and cover them with the towels in my trunk, take them home, give them baths and feed them soup. In my heart I am already deciding what bedtime stories to share with them. But, while I am lost in fantastic thought, they lead me to their “home” a few blocks away.
It’s a shanty, with small light fighting to conquer the cold night through the open door and cracked windows. At the dirty front stoop is what appears to be their grandmother. She can’t be older than 45, but she is covered in dirt and muck herself. She looks like a beaten woman and demands to know who I am and what I’m doing with her babies. I hold tighter to the girls’ hands, ready to fight.
Just as I’m taking a breath to assert my intention, I am interrupted by a Honda Civic which pulls up right behind me and honks its horn. Out steps a mousey little woman with scuffed and worn pumps. She looks at me, smiles, and then reaches out for the girls who run into her arms. This is their social worker, and they know her well.
She is no-nonsense, which I can appreciate at a time like this. Behind her Civic approaches a police cruiser. Two uniformed officers emerge and arrest the young, dirty, grandmother. The girls are whisked away with the social worker without so much as another word.
I am left standing in the cold mist with nothing more than my quickly deflating hopes for the girls and the prognosis from the doctor filling my head. Tears are coming, and I can feel them as they travel through my throat and to my burning cheeks. Understanding that the Obama’s are still witnessing this scene, I pull my chin up and try to smile as I walk to my car. Show no fear, no pain.
My act seems to have convinced them that I am absolutely fine with the outcome that just occurred and this satisfies them. They continue to board the vehicle. I climb into my cold awaiting car, that is too small for children anyway. And we all pull out of the lonely parking lot one after each other toward our own destinations.