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The Lady in the Van

A few weeks ago, I saw a movie at the cheap seats called The Lady In The Van.  It was one of those movies that I was only slightly interested in, so on one lonely weekend, I went to hideout by myself.  I didn't think it would be a big draw against the other big titles showing.  I was pretty much right.  It's not a movie I can really recommend but it had a good story if you're into the psychological kind of thing.

It reminded me so much of my own life.  I have a good friend who has been homeless all of her adult life.  She is my Lady in the Van.  She is nearly in her 80's and if you've been reading the blog very long, you might have heard me talk about her.  I really care about her.  Just over a year ago, we found her a little apartment and she has been pretty stable for nearly a year and a half.

I am ashamed to admit I haven't seen her since Shelbie had all her health issues this year.  A few days before mother's day, I ran into May at the grocery store.  She has Schizophrenia so I'm never sure if she will recognize me or be scared of me.  She recognized me and was so happy to see me.  She even clapped her hands in joy!  Since it had been so long since I checked in on her, she thought I had moved to South America.  I thought she was going to cry when I told her I was still here.

I promised her that afternoon, that I would stop by and see her the following day.

The following day...I didn't.

Every morning since then, I see her drive by my house just before 7am.  Every morning.

Tonight, I decided to make her some food and head to her apartment for a visit and apologize for broken promises.  As I pulled in the parking lot, I saw her sitting in her van.  I waved and she waved back.  As I approached her, she had tears in her eyes!  "You came!"

I knew immediately that she was not doing well; mentally.  There was food spilling out of her van, broken windows with grocery sacks stuffed in the gaps to protect her from the rain. Papers, bags, containers, spoiled food, plastic swords and other dollar store trinkets and treasures were piled to the roof.  We visited for a bit and discovered that she has been sleeping in her van again.  I hate that!  I worry about her being alone in a broken van at night.

She told me she still has her lease on the apartment but she can't sleep there..."It's too gloomy." she said, "I sleep better here."

"Do we need to find you a new place to live?"  I asked
"Maybe.  I have nightmares.  They chase me down in there.  It's better out here.  This spot is okay, the other side of the parking lot has nightmares too." Her poor tired eyes filled with tears.

My heart breaks for her.

To make matters worse...she had been ticketed again, three times this week for driving 'recklessly' and has to appear in court on Tuesday.  She is scared they will put her in jail.  She asked if I could go with her and bail her out if they take her away.

I left May tonight feeling so angry.  She is constantly fighting against this world. People call in her license plate to the police because she drives too slow and they think she's a hazard.  I just wish people would leave her alone if they aren't willing to be helpful.  Why not call in the people texting while driving or checking Facebook- not the poor lady driving 5 mph.

We all have a 'Lady in the Van' where we live.  Those odd souls that shake heads and make reason stare. I wonder if sometimes, we are too quick to judge, too quick to police, too quick to jump to conclusions.  I wonder what would happen if we gave more chances, spread more caring, had a little more heart?  If you got to know her, you might find she's a real angel and doesn't deserve the life she has valiantly and gracefully tried to live despite its shortcomings.



  1. OH, Kathy. That IS heartbreaking. I'm going to keppers May in my prayers.


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Monday, I had this overwhelming feeling that she was in trouble and it dawned on me that I should call the apartment where she was last known to be.  They didn't answer.  They didn't answer my call all week!  Finally, yesterday (Friday) they called me back.  I was afraid that they wouldn't give me any information about May since I wasn't family so I lied!  I told them she was my great Aunt.  The manager hummed and hawed and finally gave the phone to a man who wondered what I wanted with her.  After some convincing, he told me that she had been arrested and taken to the State Mental Hospital.

I was so sad!  I immediately called the State Hospital and asked if I could speak to her but of course, they can't tell me if she is there or not...and, I couldn't remember her first, legal name.  She has sever…