Angels on the Roof

Heart Full of Wonder by Megan Leong

"I know you are busy..... but can I tell you a story?"

I was behind. As usual. It was time to go home, and I had (out-of-town) family waiting to start our New Years' Eve festivities.  I still had to call a newlywed and break the news that her culture confirmed genital herpes; change a toddler's antibiotic to one his insurance would cover; call Marcus and tell him the MRI showed 2 fractures in his left hand, one in his right knee and a torn right lateral collateral ligament from his motorcycle accident; and re-fill several medications before the long holiday weekend.

I didn't have time for anything more, but she seemed especially anxious to share something. So, hiding my impatience, I sat down, closed my computer and agreed to hear her story.

She always has one.

Vivian's chronological age is 64, but she is 88 by appearances and 97 if we calculate life-years based on accumulated hardship.  Over the last 2 1/2 years of overseeing her healthcare, she has frequently weighed heavily on my mind. Single, and abandoned by her children, she shares her small home with a grandson, who eats what little food she can afford, forcing her to often starve, but feels no compulsion to clean up his messes or help Vivian in any way. In factual tones, never dripping with sorrow or pity, Vivian often tells me about her challenges, especially ones involving her home's decrepit state of disrepair. Weighing less than 100 pounds and packing around a portable oxygen tank, she is tough and hard-working and does what she can to keep up on things such as trimming bushes, cutting down an overgrown tree with a handsaw, scraping chipped paint, and patching holes in the wall.

Which brings me to her story. I will relay it in first person, just the way I heard it.

My roof has leaked for a long time. In my living room, there is green mold where water drips down the wall. I couldn't afford a new roof, but I have been saving for many months to get some supplies to repair the leak. Two weeks ago, I had enough to purchase a bucket of tar. The cheapest one was $54.53 and I had finally saved $59 dollars. 

I was just about to buy the tar, when another customer standing next to me said, "I wouldn't buy that....it's not going to do a good enough job." He pointed to another bucket. "That's the one you should get." 

I asked the salesman the cost of the other bucket. It was $90. 

"I can't afford that one," I told the stranger.

"Who is going to be putting this tar on your roof?" he asked me. I said I planned on climbing up and doing it myself. 

"I'll tell you what...." he said. "I'd like to buy that other bucket of tar for you. And in fact, I'll come on over and put it on myself." 

He bought the $90 bucket, and carried it out to my car. I gave him my address and drove away feeling appreciative. But I didn't think I would ever see him again.

Three days later, on Saturday at noon, he showed up at my door. He went up on my roof, then came down and said, "it's kind of cloudy right now. I'll be back in a few hours to take care of your leak."

Two hours later, a beautiful pick-up pulling a large white trailer parked outside my house. Out of the trailer came six big guys who immediately climbed up on my roof and started going to work. I soon realized, they weren't there to just put down a bucket of tar. Six hours later, I had an entire new roof.  

The next Saturday, the man showed up again, this time with three guys. They said they were back to put on another layer and seal the roof.  They gave me what I could never, ever afford to do in my lifetime.

While they were working, I made them some of my homemade tortillas and really good beans. It was the best I could do to show my thanks. 

And you know what? I still don't even know his name. 

But I know he's an angel.

As she finished her story, we both wiped tears from our eyes. How grateful I was in that moment that I didn't hurry her out of the exam room. I felt gratitude that Vivian wanted to share this story with me. I was thankful for a profession that allowed intimate exchanges like this. I was thankful Vivian wouldn't have to worry about her roof anymore, and that---maybe--- her health and lungs would improve. I was thankful for miracles and kindness and character. And I was thankful to cap off the year 2015 believing in angels.


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