(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
The autumn months turned into a strange and lonely time for me. Every morning, I woke up early in a cramped apartment and made oatmeal. I hiked the half hour to my personal care assistant job, rain or shine. I memorized the routine and my role in it. I tried to avoid impatient reminders from the upperclass student if I paused too long.
After my morning job, I had about four hours free.
Anything Beth needed as she started her freshman year of college was my priority. I helped her pick up medical supplies in the mailroom. I took her wheelchair to get the bearings replaced, while she used an old back-up chair. I bought snacks for her or groceries for me, or carried my dirty clothes to a laundromat. (She still wouldn't let me do her laundry.) I usually stayed in Harvard Square in-between my jobs. I drank tea, read, and wrote, alone with a constant tension headache. Nothing made it completely go away, but many things aggravated it. My goal was to keep it at a lower level and avoid pain spikes.
At 2 pm, I started second shift at the Harvard Coop. The crowds in the textbook department thinned out as the semester progressed, so my hours dropped to seven a day, five days a week. I stocked shelves and sent emails about ordered books. One evening, I recognized Wallace Shawn who played Vizzini in the classic, The Princess Bride. The movie had played more than a few times during popcorn parties at our home in Ohio. I also chatted with actress Sharon Stone.
Coop employees often talked about frequent celebrity sightings.
During my break, I sat outside in nice weather to eat my peanut butter sandwich, people watching and listening to talented street musicians. I eavesdropped on tourist conversations and made a game out of guessing the languages they spoke. This carried over to my work hours at the Coop, where I sometimes asked customers where they were from.
At 9 p.m., I joined the line waiting to punch out before I trekked past Beth’s dorm to my apartment, a half an hour walk. I called John, Ben, Maria, Beth, or my parents on my walk home. I carried pepper spray and a whistle.
Alone on dark Cambridge streets, I felt surprisingly safe with plenty of people all around.
Each night, I poured a bowl of cereal or heated up a can of soup before showering and sleeping, with the notable exception of Friday evenings. To usher in the weekend, I stopped at CVS after work to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's frozen yogurt, either half-baked or cherry garcia. A difficult decision. I always had good intentions of not eating it all at once. ;-)
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