Sometimes I am too nice. Its been a problem over the years. The truth is that I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings and I do like to help when I can. Goodness knows that I have been helped enough times in my life that payback of some sort is due. But there have been times when helping has turned sour.
There was a young single mom who lived across the fence from me in a nearly identical apartment building to my own. We stared into each other’s window. She had a boy who was Boo’s age at the time… 6. The Bear was bran spanking new. It was not uncommon for the moms in our complexes to trade babysitting time. So when this woman came to me and asked me to watch her son so that she could apply for a job, I said certainly I would.
X was out of town for three weeks on a job several hours away. We did not have a phone at the time, nor did I have a car while he was gone. Not a big deal. We were just a few blocks from the market and anything else I thought I might need. In a pinch I could walk to the phone booth at the corner and call one of my relatives or friends if something went wrong.
The day arrived that I was supposed to watch Slick, as the boy was called. The mom showed up, looking very nervous. Interview jitters, I thought and waved her off. Slick slipped past me to sit on the floor next to Boo and was lost in the world of Ninja Turtles.
Bear slept soundly in her bassinette. When I turned around, Slick was still in his coat, with a big scarf wrapped around his head and neck that would have made Dr. Who envious. This was in
, where we might have had a bit of fog that morning, but it was no where close to freezing or even particularly cold. Fresno
“Slick, why don’t you take those off… you must be overheating.”
The boy shook his head and did not say a word. Slick was a normally quiet boy. I turned my attention to the dishes. After a time, he was still sitting there all bundled up. I walked over and tugged at his coat. He allowed me to remove it, but when I tried to unwind the scarf, he held on tight. Odd. I insisted, my mom senses were tingling. Slick looked up at me with very sad eyes.
“Did your mom tell you not to take the scarf off?” I asked as casually as possible, not to let my anger show. It was unlikely this boy’s fault. He nodded. His cheeks were so swollen that they vanished down his neck into his shirt. I knew from past experience what caused that… mumps. There was not a darned thing that I could do about it. I felt his feverish head. I made him stand on the scale and gave him the appropriate dose of children’s fever reducer, then made him comfortable on the sofa.
None of my children ever had the mumps. They had all been religiously vaccinated. I was not worried for them. I was worried for myself. I’d never had the mumps, but my brother had. When Slick’s mother returned, I complained. She said, well she thought he looked funny, but thought it was just a bug. Who sends a child with a “bug” into the home of a new born? Someone desperate to get a job, I suppose. I hoped that I would get lucky and escape.
For a few weeks it looked as if I had. Then one of the guys where X worked stopped by to say the job was going over an extra week. We were getting short on money, but I could stretch things by making bread. I spent Bear’s afternoon nap making bread for the week. By the time she woke up, my head was killing me. By the next morning I looked like I was sporting Jabba the Hut’s head and could not turn my head in either direction.
Feeling ill does not come close to the feeling I had. Wishing I’d just die and get it over with does.
X would not be home for at lease four days. There was no way on earth that I could pack the baby up in the stroller and head for the pay phone a block away. I was seriously considering using Bear’s Huggies to keep from having to get off the couch and visit the bathroom. I thought… surely someone will come by. Not a soul. For three days Boo took care of me and his tiny sister. He mixed formula like a pro, fed and burped her, changed her and all with no complaint. I did not feel much like eating, but he made and fed me luke warm soup from the microwave… I did not want him to burn himself if it spilled.
The fourth day, a friend showed up. I had promised to baby sit for their anniversary that evening. Kathy had come by to make sure it would be alright to drop her sons off a bit early. She took one look at me and said “Oh my god!” All I could do was cry, I was so glad to see her because I knew that I could now die and my children would survive. She spent her anniversary taking care of me and my kids, while her husband babysat their own. When X returned the next day, I hardly noticed, except for his ranting and raving about how mad he was at Slick’s mom making my head hurt even more.
I tried to thank Kathy before she left, but she insisted that she had been thrilled to be able to play with a girl baby for a few days and waved it off. The following work week she showed up every morning to take over when X left until I was well enough to take care of my family again.
So sometimes I am too nice. I get that. But on the other hand, if I had not been a nice person and traded babysitting with Kathy, who would have shown up to help me? That is the thing about payback for kindness. It is not on time, but it is certainly timely when needed. I guess its not so bad being too nice. You can argue that I never would have gotten sick if I had said no and you would likely be correct. But then again, maybe I would have gotten another illness off a shopping cart handle when I rubbed my eyes. You never know when you will need help. Best to keep that kindness bank full… and always, be thankful.