“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Gandhi
Winter was slow in coming that year, marching up the mountain into Flagstaff later than we are used to. Warm summer air dominated the land all the way into December. There had been a bounty of rain in August keeping dark colored leaves on the trees much longer than seemed natural and right. That new found benefit of global warming we will all learn to endure. The taxi business was booming. We were swamped by calls.
The request came from the new Walmart, an older couple needing a ride home. He stood behind her holding her walker in one hand, touching her shoulder with the other hand in a comforting way. The long grey hair and beard made him look like the classic image ‘Father Time.’ You could tell by the way he doted on her that through all the challenges life brought them, they were still deeply in love.
I could tell from their voices that both came from Southwestern Pennsylvania. I grew up in that area after leaving South Boston at an early age, and that created a connection between us that made the conversation move easily. I could sense from the way he kept looking at me that he had something he wanted to say.
I asked him what brought him to the fine city of Flagstaff. That question provided the opening for which he was looking. I could tell the details of what happened weighed heavily on their minds and hearts. I took that one deep breath I use to pull me into the moment and silently waited for him tell his story. I knew from the look on their faces; a sad tale was waiting to unfold.
They were enjoying their retirement back home in Pennsylvania when their daughter invited them to come and live out their last days near her and the grandchildren. A chance to see the babies grow, closeness renewed, the family unit restored. It was an invitation they could not refuse.
Within a few months after arriving the daughter persuaded the mom to put her name on the old couple’s bank account. The young lady convinced the couple to let her take ownership of the car; to ‘protect’ the couple in their older days, to keep everything in the ‘family,’ where it belonged.
Within a few weeks the young and very helpful daughter stole everything they had. All the money they stashed away to enjoy their later years. Then she left the state with the grandchildren they were coming to love deeply and took their car to make sure her escape. He never expected it, blindsided in a way that left him confused, he was not sure what to think. He paused and looked at me, as if waiting for me to speak up and give him some clue. I did not know what to say except “Wow” as I shook my head.
The bank was not being helpful, in fact it was treating them like they did something wrong, like they were criminals by association and by default. The bank they have used for the last thirty years, made them feel it was their problem and they were being a nuisance by showing up so many times, trying to protect what little they had left.
By this time they were so overwhelmed by it all, so stunned by the betrayal from their daughter, they were questioning their own role. What did they do to cause this? Was it her new boyfriend who turned her against them? How would they reunite with their grandchildren? How would they survive now that their savings were gone?
There was nothing I could say other than to tell them both how sorry I felt. I wished I had an answer. I wanted to help these kind people, but with my limited resources there was nothing I could do.
Yes bad things do happen to good people but it was still hard to reconcile what had been done to these. I can not understand the other side of the story but there was no doubt that these kind souls had been wounded in ways I could not imagine. I think about them often as I drive around Flagstaff blessed by happiness and heartache along the way.