They had their daughter later in life than they expected. But why not? The two of them have a lot of love to give, good jobs, a home. So, at 53 and 38, Paul and Louise welcomed their beautiful baby into their lives. From the first moments of breath she brought more joy and connection than they thought possible, becoming parents didn’t even register as an adjustment. It was a natural trio.
She is now 12 years old and in the 7th grade. She loves to learn and laugh. But laughter has been missing from home for a while. Her teachers noticed that she is a little thin, and sometimes comes to school dirty.
A couple years ago Paul was diagnosed with bone cancer. The hopes and laughter that this tight trio share began to shift, and Paul couldn’t help but begin to wonder if he would see his beautiful daughter grow up. The cancer took his left leg, and he underwent a hip replacement. Now confined to a wheelchair, Paul found his roll as provider for his little family impossible. Everything has changed. Each day this family wakes with the knowing that life, and the hope and dreams they had for their future is forever lost somewhere in the dream world, and the reality leaves little hope.
As adjustment after adjustment entered their home the trio remains rooted in their love for each other. However some of the ‘adjustments’ are more than any family should have to endure. Last winter most nights were cold, as the fear of increased heating bills griped Paul and Louise. Living on less than $800.00 a month just doesn’t seem to stretch far enough, and week by week the bills flow in.
After a long winter the little family found that their utility bills were more than they could afford. Paul and Louise spent spring trying to come up with ideas on how to make it through the coming hot summer. Fear and anxiety came to live with the family, and set up camp in the center of their lives.
One afternoon Paul and Louise’s daughter came home from playing at her friends to find a new life adjustment had arrived. Life without electricity.
No more air-conditioning for the hottest summer days. No more cooked meals. No lights after dark. No more hot showers.
Without electricity Paul began to travel to Giant Grocery every morning to re-charge his electric wheelchair. Fear and anxiety hitchhiked along for the ride.
Over three months passed as the family lived in the darkened home. Through a referral from the utility company Paul and Louise came to the Center. Armed with little hope they had left, and a stack of overdue bills, they sat down with a volunteer and quietly asked for help.
That is how much money they needed to qualify for a Fuel Fund grant, BGE matching credits, and $500.00 in CII (Baltimore Community Foundation) funds.
Less than two hundred dollars, the access to partnering programs, and a volunteer to guide the way. That is all it took.
That is all it took to turn the lights back on. To have a hot shower, and see the toothbrush. To be able to read at night. To enable Louise to prepare a warm meal. That is all it took to tell fear and anxiety to move out of the house, and to make room for love and dignity to grow.
There isn’t a happy ending to this story. The struggles are still present. However, at this moment, they know they are not alone.
Special Thanks to the Abell Foundation, Baltimore Community Foundation, Fuel Fund, Constellation Energy and United Way of Central Maryland for supporting the Franciscan Center through generous grants that enable us to provide hope for families like this one.