I interviewed for my last job in 1993 when there were no cell phones. Blackberry and apple were known as fruits. The following year, a careless driver ran over me as I walked my dogs leading to a long hospital stay. Permanent brain injuries removed me from the workplace. At the age of 39, I was impaired but capable. A long recovery aside, I re-invented myself as an all-around volunteer. Each position fulfilled and rewarded me in special ways.
I answered calls in former AZ Governor Janet Napolitano’s office once a week. During my first week, a caller asked for Janet. Not recalling anyone named Janet, I said, “Who’s Janet?” She shot back, “The governor you idiot.” The caller wanted legal advice from the governor who had served as attorney general from 1998-2002. During a group luncheon with the volunteers and the governor later that year, I told the story. The governor laughed. Five years later, I left when the governor resigned to work in the Obama administration. I was proud of my service to Arizona. I parted with a long list of stories that could fill pages.
The most memorable rescue involved my own dog, Maxine. I paid $2.00 to a woman hawking vials of cocaine for a scabby mutt she called Maxine. That was September 19, 1988 when I worked as a social worker in a South Bronx neighborhood crushed by poverty, illicit drugs and gangs. I lived in a one-room apartment and struggled to pay rent and utilities. How could I afford a dog? By the time I got home, the skinny dog melted my heart. I kept her.
Maxine and I shared a special bond. On January 6, 1994 we took our usual stroll after work when a car struck me and threw me into a ditch. I was unconscious. Neighbors said she refused to leave my side, licking blood oozing from my head. She whimpered and whined as the ambulance sped off. Fortunately, friends cared for her in my two-month absence.
During my hospitalization, friends persuaded doctors to allow Maxine to visit. Although I have no memory of her bedside calls, friends said I knew her name when I didn’t know my own.
When I came home nearly two months later, I was on the verge of slipping into depression. Maxine’s warm nose helped me shift my angry attitude and realize my life had a purpose.
Maxine lost her struggle in February 2001. I cried for days. How could I live without my beloved Maxine? Other unwanted dogs have needed me since. I’ve loved each one but Maxine will always hold a tender place in my heart. That was the best $2.00 I ever spent.
Had that careless driver missed me, my life would’ve gone on as usual. The accident happened and nothing was the same. I’ve struggled a lot, relying on meager Social Security Disability payments that barely cover rent, utilities, food and car insurance. I drive a 13 -year-old car. I water down dish soap and laundry detergent to make them last longer. I shop in thrift stores and buy day old bread. I’ve dug through the trash for aluminum cans to redeem for cash. If 1/6/94 was an ordinary day, I would’ve missed out on so many chances that enriched my heart and molded me into a better person. My life is fuller because of my volunteer work. I lost part of my mobility. My memory stinks. Do I regret the accident? Not at all. I have so much to be thankful for in spite of what I lost.