"This beautiful sunset doesn't help pay the bills!" The old woman stated with a toothless smile. I noticed that smile before I heard her words.
"Yes!" I stated in retort, not really wanting to get too involved in the conversation.
She was fishing on the city dock with her young grandson, both of them wrapped up in layers, though the temperatures were still mild. The jackets and sweaters were old and dirty. The two of them were sitting at opposite sides of the dock, and from the look of it, they must have been there for hours.
"Caught anything?" I chanted, still not truly wanting to be engaged, ready to move on my walk.
"Look!" She pulled a string of trout from the water, a beautiful catch indeed.
"Wonderful!" I smiled back.
"Do you like trout?" She asked as she pulled a couple off the string and bagged them.
"They are delicious." I said, not sure what to do, how to accept. I had nothing with me except my phone.
"Take them. We have lots of them." She kept smiling as she handed me the bag.
"I have to give you something back..." I was hesitating. I couldn't take something for nothing, I thought. This kind of interchange only works between friends, or family, people with whom you give and take.
"Nah. Nothing. Take them."
I did. The little boy, a first or second grader, came over and asked me if I knew how to gut and fillet the fish because he could do that for me too. I told him it was ok.
By the time I got home and prepared the trout, and ate it for dinner, I still could not believe than anyone could just give me something for nothing. The next day, and the next, and through the week, I carried a ten dollar bill on my daily walk. I wanted so much to meet the same people and thank them properly.
This weekend I was at the Democratic Party Headquarters, at a small gathering to get out the vote. I met the woman again, and I found out her name and her status, and the names and status of dozens of other folks who represent the democratic party here in our small town. Some, like this woman, are making do, living on social security check. She wanted to know that some kind of help is available if she can no longer take care of her grandchild.
She is still looking for a job, by the way, anything that she can still do, gardening, cleaning, pet sitting. She volunteers at the local Pantry, bagging groceries, going on gleaning trips to local orchards and farms to get surplus produce for people who are worse off than her. She volunteers at school most days too, and is present at every event her grandchild participates.
She is barely eligible for Medicare, but has not enrolled yet because she doesn't need a doctor. She is happy her grandchild has Oregon Child Health card, and occasional dental care provided by local dentists who stop by in a van at every elementary school, once or twice a year.
I explained to her that she must enroll for Medicare, and see a doctor.
Her only need, she said, is that her grandchild is cared for if she is no longer around.