6/04/2008

Maggie – Her Story



“Everyone has a story…if only the world would listen.” – My Mother

This is the second in a series on people I have either known or met in my life. Some notable, some not so notable and some you would rather not have ever met. The first in the series was Mr. Mullane – His Story. You can read that one by hitting the link.

As I have stated several times before (maybe too many times), I moved back home to Mobile, AL after my divorce with my X in north Alabama. It was a very trying experience. I had to get my belongings moved down here, find a house and get settled in once again. I always had heard of a mid-life crisis. But, I always thought it would be me that had the crisis. Enough of that.

After finding a place, getting situated in a different area of town, I started back to my routine. I have always been an early bird. So, between 6-6:30AM, I’m up, getting dressed and going to one of the fast food restaurants for coffee and maybe a biscuit. Usually, I would go to Hardee’s because I really love their biscuits. But, on some occasions, I would go to McDonalds because I really love their coffee. Hated McDonalds biscuits, hated Hardee’s coffee. If I did go to McDonalds, I always noticed this one lady sleeping in front of an arts and crafts store in a strip mall behind McDonalds. She was obviously homeless. There was the grocery cart with all her belongings; dirty clothing, empty cans to sell and so forth. I’ve always had great empathy for the homeless. I can’t quite say why. Maybe it’s because they’re the invisible class of people we never quite see or acknowledge.

I asked an employee at the drive-up if he knew anything about the homeless woman sleeping in front of that store. He said her name was “Maggie” (not her real name, simply out of respect for her daughter) and they used to give her free coffee and a biscuit. But, since they had gotten a new manager, they were not allowed to give her anything. I thought that was a shame. I told him to give me another medium coffee and sausage biscuit and I would take it to her. He warned me she had a few screws loose, maybe a whole lot of screws loose. This gave me reason to pause. But, I got the coffee and biscuit to do my good deed of the day.

Hesitantly, I pulled up in front of where she was just getting up for the day. Got out of the car and made up a story to her that McDonalds had given me an extra coffee and biscuit I did not need. She looked at me as if she knew me. “Bobby, where you been boy,” she asked. Oh boy, I’m thinking what have I gotten myself into now. She took the coffee and asked me how an assortment of names were doing, none of which I had a clue about. She obviously had psychiatric problems. I drove off after wishing her well.

After I got home, I thought about it some more and decided to call the Salvation Army to see if they could get her some help, mental and home-wise. The lady who answered my call knew immediately about Maggie. Maggie had been in and out of state mental institutions for the better part of 10 years. She would get better with medication and could function (somewhat) in society. However, she would seldom take her medication upon leaving the state institutions. She was frequently homeless as a result. Only one of her children, a daughter, tried to get her to come live with her. But, Maggie preferred the streets. The lady at the Salvation Army then surprised me by saying that if I wished to leave my phone number, she would call Maggie’s daughter to see if she would like to talk to me since I had taken such an interest in helping her.

I didn’t hear anything for several days. Then, one afternoon as I was sitting down to eat supper, I got the call from Maggie’s daughter. She said she was grateful that someone had shown her mother a simple kindness. She had been beaten up, robbed and just generally led a life of hardship because of her illness. Maggie suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The state institutions would only go so far to help. The daughter tried to go to court to declare Maggie mentally incompetent. But, her court appointed lawyer managed to beat the state on a technicality. This meant a mentally incompetent person, who was incapable of caring for herself was on the streets. Her daughter cried as she spoke about this. I told her I would continue to drop by to check on her if she wanted me to. She said she appreciated me doing that and to please call her.

Maggie disappeared shortly (about a couple of months) after this initial conversation I had with her daughter. Maggie’s daughter and I talked frequently about her disappearance for about six months. She was frustrated with the police, state officials and the judicial system that had failed her mother. Then, we just sort of went our separate ways. She did promise me she would call me if she ever heard anything on her mother. That was two and a half years ago.

In Febuary of this year, I got a call from Maggie’s daughter. Her mother had been found. Unfortunately, she was found at the bottom of a ravine in Georgia. Someone had murdered Maggie, took what little she had and dumped her into the ravine. It was one of those rare times I was at a loss for words. It’s hard to know what to say in a circumstance such as this. I did tell her I was deeply sorry to hear about Maggie and I wanted to know if there was anything I could do. She just said thank you for showing kindness to my mother. You did all you could have done.

Somehow, that didn’t make me feel any better. There’s always something you felt you could have done or said. But, in the end, there is a limit what you can do to help the “Maggie’s” of the world. And I agree with Maggie’s daughter; the state, police and the judicial system failed her mother. Maggie was just one of those unfortunate souls who “slipped through the cracks.” I doubt that makes her daughter feel any better.








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