An Update to “The Stranger in my Recliner.”

Meet the Author/Book Signing Schedule

Barnes and Noble Rittenhouse- Saturday /February 11, 2012/1:00pm- 4:00pm/1805 Walnut Street/ Philadelphia, Pa. 19103/ 215-665-0716

Barnes and Noble Broomall- Saturday February 18th, 2012/ 1-4 [PENDING]/ 1901 Sproul Road/ Broomall, Pa. 19008

Barnes and Noble Willow Grove- Saturday February 25th, 2012/ 1-4/ [PENDING] 102 Park Avenue, Willow Grove, Pa. 19090

Barnes and Noble Neshaminy Mall- Saturday March 3, 2012/ 1-4/ 4200 Neshaminy Blvd. #707/ Neshaminy Mall/ Bensalem, Pa. 19020

Barnes and Noble/ Thursday March 8, 2012/ 4:00pm.- 7:00pm/5501 West Broad Street/ Richmond, Va. 23230/ 804-282-0781

Gifts for the Spirit–  March 9th, 2012/ 466 Ridge Avenue [Route 1]/ Daytona Beach Florida 32117- 12pm-2:00pm

Port Orange Library [Volusia County]- March 16th, 2012/ 1005 City Center Circle/ Port Orange, Florida 321292:00pm for BOOK BEAT in the auditorium!!

Sweet Marlays Coffee House- 214 South Beach Street/ Daytona Beach, Florida 32114/ Sunday March 17th/ 1:00pm-3:00pm

The Griffin Bookshop and Coffee Bar- 723 Caroline Street/ Fredericksburg, Va. 22401/ March 18th/ 2:00pm-4:00pm

Schiavo Library- 801 Commonwealth Avenue/ Strathmere, NJ 08248/ Thursday June 21st, 2012

Stranger in My Recliner Update

John, my husband has been active in an organization for years.  Wednesday nights he would attend a meeting.

On this one particularly rainy, cold Wednesday night I got a call from John.  He asked if I would mind if he brought someone home with him.  He said he was leaving the meeting and saw an elderly woman walking on the sidewalk.  She was soaking wet and appeared distressed.  He offered to give her a ride and she accepted.  It was then he thought he recognized her.  It had been maybe thirteen years before he had seen her in one of the meetings.  He remembered the year because it was the year John’s seventeen year old son had died. This woman had been very kind to him.  It became apparent to John this poor woman was homeless and had no place to go.  Of course, I told him to bring her home.  She was freezing so I made her a hot bath, gave her my favorite silk pajamas and fed her.  We made her comfortable on the sofa and went to bed.  When I woke the next morning, I found her curled up on the sofa, clutching her plastic grocery bag full of whatever and a small very well stuffed pocketbook.  I had tears in my eyes.  How does this happen to some one her age, she had to be in her seventies?

She had John drop her off at McDonald’s and he promised her he would stop by the McDonald’s after work and if she was there, she could come home with him again.

She was there and came back to our house.  Before long, Sophie had been moved into one of our extra bedrooms.  John really felt he was doing a good thing and who was I to argue.  I never thought she would be with us long.  She had to have family somewhere.  I am all for saving the world but I worked twelve -hour days taking care of the elderly.  The last thing I wanted to do when I came home was to take care of another.

I contacted our congressman, Joe Sestak and his office quickly e-mailed me a list of contacts for such a situation.  I called Catholic Social Services and a sister made an appointment to come out the next day.  She asked Sophie a lot of questions and said she would be in contact with me.  I never heard from her again.  I called COSA, our local Delaware County association for the aging.  They quickly mailed me a packet of useless information.  I called our local public assistance office and left a message. Three weeks later after no reply I called again.  It was my day off and I was determined to get a reply so I called every ½ hour.  At 3:30 pm, Sophie’s case worker finally returned my call.  He said she was entitled to $15.00 a month in food stamps and was on some kind of housing list but I would have to call them directly.  He also informed me he would be sending out a packet and Sophie would be entitled to more benefits, now that she had an address.  I filled out the pages in the packet and sent them back.  A few phone calls later Sophie still receives $15 a month in food stamps and nothing more.

I decided to take her to her doctor.  Maybe I could get some information there on her family or at least her health.  That was a big NO because I am not a relative.  They did charge me $60 for the appointment.  I asked why she was not on medicare or something.  She should be the nurse informed me but I would have to go through her caseworker.  I was so frustrated I basically gave up and just resigned myself to the fact that Sophie lived with us.  I continued to prepare food for her before I left for work in the morning.  She could not even operate the microwave without a disaster ensuing.  Getting her to shower or bathe was a nightmare and a full time job on my day off.  When I was home she expected to be waited on hand and foot.  Yes, as my husband says this was my fault because I felt sorry for her at first.  The poor woman had been walking the streets and sleeping in the woods.  I asked her to do little chores for me such as loading the dishwasher with disastrous results.  Sophie has three children, sisters and brothers.  We could not find them.  How did this happen to her?

When I was involved in a car accident and out of work for awhile, my feeling sorry for her was quickly turning to annoyance.  She sat in the recliner in our living room all day.  When she asked me for a drink I told her to help herself.  She never did.  However when we went to bed at night she would raid the kitchen.  That wasn’t so terrible but the raiding of the trash can just made my skin crawl.  While cleaning my living room one day I found 3 rotten banana’s, five cups of yogurt and six cans of Pepsi stuffed into the magazine pocket of the recliner.  I had a talk with her.  She promised it would not happen again but it still does.  I also told her she had to change her clothes daily and at least wash herself.  I have to remind her every day for most of the day.

During the day when I come up to my office to write she calls me every five minutes.  I feed her and five minutes later she is hungry again.  She complains that she cannot walk because she was attacked on the streets and everything hurts her.  I tried to explain to her she has to get up and move around or before long she really will not be able to move.  She tells me I do not understand what it is like to be beaten up.  I hope whoever did beat her up rots in hell.

John decided he was going to remove a drop ceiling and paint.  She complained the whole time and when she had to move out of the recliner to another side of the room you might have thought we put her out in the yard.  John and I are forced to be in our bedroom just to have a conversation.  We also watch television in our room because if we put something on in the living room other than the soap channel or the game show network she whines.

We recently found out her brother is in a facility for the aged very close to our home.   I investigated and it seems like a nice place.  I thought we would take her to visit her brother, who she swears she loves, but she refuses to go.  I called the facilities social worker and explained the story to her and she referred me to admissions.  Two phone calls, two messages left and I have not heard from them.

Please do not get the wrong idea.  I am a kind person and so is Sophie.  My deepest frustration is this woman has a family.  Where are they? How dare they just leave her alone to walk the streets?  Yes,she is a lot of work but she is not a member of my family.  I remember the words of a priest while I was caring for my dying mother-in-law, “You will never be so close to heaven as you are with a person about to enter”.  How dare I complain about taking care of an elderly woman who has no one else in this world to care for her?  I feel so guilty for wanting to live a life alone with my husband.

Every time I leave my house I see another Sophie out there on the street.  Why was my husband there that particular night to find her?  My only explanation is that it was God’s plan and not for me to question.   For the immediate future the strange woman will remain in the recliner in our living room and I will continue to care for her to the best of my ability.

That does not stop my frustration with the depth of the homeless problem everywhere.  I learned awhile back that I cannot save the entire world.  What I  can do is give up my recliner to one poor soul who has no one else in this world.

Update: Sophie has finally been placed in a facility close to our home.  She has recently been placed on hospice. Please pray for her. John visits her regularly but my visits upset her. That breaks my heart. Her family has yet to visit. [We finally did speak with them.]

Have a positive week and remember you can get through anything if you only have to do it for one day.






4 Responses to “An Update to “The Stranger in my Recliner.””

  • Thanks for the update.

  • I’m an American by choice and I love this country, but this is such a good example of something being very wrong here. The freedom people here love so much, must come with responsibility. And I feel that when someone, particularly an elderly person, has no one, the government has to step in. Americans are very caring and giving people, very charitable, but there has to be something behind that, something to back that up. You cannot just rely on some charitable person like you, Doreen, to help. But I admire you so much for what you did.

  • You are a kind and generous person and are being taken advantage of especially as she has a family. I do hope things resolve themselves for her sake…..and Yours.

  • DM:

    Boy, this just rings so familiar of all the red tape and no help available to those in need.

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