Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mr. Williams / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I was doing my Meals on Wheels route last week when I noticed a name missing from my delivery list. Where was Mr. Williams? I'd missed seeing Barry the last time around, but I'd assumed he was at a doctor's appointment, as my clients often are.

I drove by his house anyway, just to see if a home health nurse was visiting. Maybe a neighbor would be standing out in the yard and could tell me if he'd been moved temporarily to a nursing home. It happened before with Mr. Foster and Miss Pearl. Miss Pearl still lives there and loves her new life. Being such a chatty lady, she talks the nurses' ears off.

What I saw in front of Mr. Williams' tiny house sent shivers up my spine. There, out beside the garbage by the side of the road, was his recliner, the chair in which he spent his life. He slept in it at night so he could stay upright, and sat in it all day long, watching television or looking out the window. It was the only piece of furniture in his living room--the only piece of furniture in his entire house besides his bed, a dresser, an old dinette set in his kitchen, and whatever was in his granddaughter's room. She lived with him, though he once told me that she was only there half the time. The other half she was on drugs, wandering the streets. He worried about her, and when she'd take his television and move it into her room, he put up with it.

"Would you like for me to go in there and get it, so you'll have something to do?" I'd ask.
"Naw," he'd say. "She'll move it back tomorrow."
(Don't worry, Todd. I only offered when she wasn't at home.)

After I finished my route, I called the Meals on Wheels office and asked about Mr. Williams. The lady looked him up for me and then paused for a moment. "I'm afraid Mr. Williams died, Becky. About three weeks ago. I'm sorry."

I got on the internet and searched for an obituary in the local paper. There wasn't one. Of course there wasn't one. Who would have sent it in anyway? He had no family left in the area except his granddaughter. There wasn't any record of a funeral or where he was buried. What happens to people like Mr. Williams when they die? Where are they buried? I'm asking because I really don't know.

I wish I'd known Barry Williams better. I can tell you that he was a very kind man. Every single time I came, he told me how much he appreciated his meal. He was diabetic and had serious problems with his legs and feet. He'd leave the door unlocked each morning so that he wouldn't have to get up and answer it when the Meals on Wheels folks knocked. He'd just shout, "Come in," and I'd let myself in. He'd always ask me how I was, and then he'd pull off his blanket and show me his legs. I'd try not to wince. They were always blueish red, covered with sores. He'd lost a couple toes to his diabetes, but he never mentioned that.

Sometimes he'd tell me the latest news of his neighborhood, of the drug bust that happened or how the local prostitute got arrested. He told me about the huge woman who roamed the neighborhood, checking for unlocked doors. "She'd come in my house and steal milk from my fridge," he chuckled, "and I couldn't do nothing about it, stuck here in my chair. Course I yelled at her, but she didn't say nothing." He called the police, but they couldn't seem to catch her. The last time I visited, he said that his neighbor, "a little bit of a girl," saw her come in and stormed over here and threw her against the wall. "You shoulda seen it," he laughed. "She ain't been back since."

Last year I was lucky enough to be the one who delivered his birthday meal. Meals on Wheels is great about giving clients cards and donated cakes on their birthdays. "You're going to have to read it to me," he said when I handed him the card.
"Do you want me to get your glasses?" I asked.
When he muttered that he couldn't read, I tried not to look shocked. I'd never known that about him. Months later I noticed that the birthday card was taped to his refrigerator, in the envelope with his name on it.

I hardly knew Mr. Williams at all, and I'm sad that he passed away with such little notice from the world. He was a kind man and always insisted that I make a U-turn through his front yard instead of backing out, since his driveway was in a blind spot. "You'll get hit if you don't. The grass don't matter."

You would have liked him.
Rest in peace, Mr. Williams.

Have a great day, friends.
Love, Becky


Cindy and Joe said...

It is a delight to have "known" Mr. Williams. You are very lucky.

Mary Hershey said...

Becky, thanks for the opportunity to allow us all to take notice of a life that has passed.

Here's to Barry's new life!

Corine said...

It was wonderful for you to post about Mr Williams on your blog. I admire you for doing Meals on Wheels, what a great purpose. You were both blessed to have known one another.

Rosemary said...

That is so sad Becky!
I'm so sorry.
Thanks for sharing,

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh man, my eyes are welled right up. You were an angel to him, Rebecca. I'm so sorry this had a sad ending. Bless you for writing his obituary here.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Y'all are kind, but Meals on Wheels gives me much more than I ever gave Mr. Williams or any other folks on my route. I'm serious--MOW is the BEST organization. You just show up and get to play Santa, delivering meals that somebody else made, to people who really need something to eat. It's easy, you need no special skills, and you meet interesting people like Barry that you might never encounter otherwise.

By the way, I've changed his name. I wouldn't want to invade Mr. William's privacy by exposing him that way.

Felicity said...

You could write a beautiful memoir based on your experiences with this program. Thanks for sharing.

judy in ky said...

I can only imagine how much your visits meant to him.

Kat said...

Oh Becky, you dear. What a sweet, wonderful woman you are. What a blessing you were to Mr. Williams. He sounds like a wonderful man. Thank you for passing his story on to us.

Once my little ones are older I want to do Meals on Wheels. What a gift.

Thank you, again. And I am sorry for the loss of your friend.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Felicity, I'm thinking about how I can share their stories. They're incredible people.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

What a wonderful, heart tugging story. So many senior citizens are invisible in this society. It just isn't right.

I'm so glad that Mr. Williams had someone special like you in your life. It sounds like he was really fond of you. The older generation always has such interesting stories to tell! Thank you for sharing your friend's story and making such a difference.

May @ Anne and May said...

Oh Becky. This is beautiful. I love when you capture little snippets of life. No one does it better than you.

Your #1 fan.


ToddR said...

I'd marry you again if I had not already done that.


Anonymous said...

hey becky
that was an experience you'll never forget
it really touched me

Kim said...

Don't worry any more about an obit for Mr. Williams. The one you just gave him was beautiful.

Paula Clare said...

Thanks, Becky for allowing us to live and meet Mr. Williams vicariously through you...I think there are entirely too many of these dear folks who pass from this world to the next with little notice (I am reminded of Mother Teresa's death being completely overshadowed by the death of Princess Diana)Of course, Mother Teresa probably wouldn't have wanted a lot of hooplah...and maybe Mr. Williams didn't either. I always feel the world is a little darker when the light of such a dear soul has been extinguished.

Thanks for sharing his story...I am keeping the picture of the recliner. To remind me to live every day, every moment.

Hugs to you,
Paula clare

Fete et Fleur said...

Rebecca you have a heart of Gold!


Rebecca Ramsey said...

I love you people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for introducing us to him!

Jenn H.

Anonymous said...

What a sad story...Mr. Williams left this world and probably not that many people missed him...but you did.

Rebecca Ramsey said...


Natalie said...

I am glad you knew him, that you noticed... I am sure it made a good difference in his life. And now your sharing this will make a good difference in my life too. Thank you.