Tamara Jorell

Writing life and the neighborhood

Writing life and the neighborhood

 

The message: Part 1

*In this blog installment, I’ve kept the real names of the Sevy quartet members. Follow this link to enjoy the music of Robin and her three daughters, Lynnea, Ivory, and Danielle—just as our family heard them on that warm summer evening in 2012. www.mprnews.org/story/2012/07/30/arts/msv-gospel

 

One day in early 2011, the Voice whispered into Husband’s heart. He told me what he heard.

Give the house away.

I mulled it over in the days that followed, sitting with the message tucked between my folded hands when I was alone in the living room in the quiet times of the day. In the solitary places, I asked if it was true, and peace floated down to rest on top of my question.

Husband and I consulted with a man of God—who mainly listened—and we talked about it more when we were alone together too.

“So that’s what we do,” Husband said.

We didn’t know where we should go, but we wouldn’t be Abraham just yet. We waited. Who would need our house?

We talked about some of our relatives—missionaries in another country—and when they’d return home, they could have it, we decided. I jotted notes about those days, not wanting to forget.

We kept living in our beloved 1919 stucco—kept doing life in the neighborhood. We didn’t forget the message, but we heard the clatter and jangle of daily life—the dirty dishes, the noise of our bamboozling Volvo, the pressing school commitments—and responded to those because they were louder.

For about a year, nothing happened with our house. At least nothing we could see with our eyes. And then it started.

In early 2012, I noticed a couple at church had a little one—a new person in their family. I asked about him. No, they hadn’t adopted, they said. They were a host family for Safe Families for Children.

“But isn’t it hard to let them go?” I said.

“It’s not about us,” said the woman with a smile, adjusting the toddler on her hip.

I tucked away what I heard and carried it home with me. I mentioned it to the family. It warmed me.

Shortly after, we learned our niece needed a place to stay for the summer. Between years at college, she wanted to live in Minneapolis to be close to her job instead of moving back home to Michigan. We could work that out, we said. So we tidied up a spot in the basement and made a little bedroom, outfitting it with a bed, a dresser, rugs, new bedding from IKEA, and a lamp. In the summer of 2012, our niece moved in.

One warm summer evening, our niece joined us at The Walker Art Museum for a free family night. We sat on the plaza dabbling in art of all kinds, the supplies already set up for us. And then the music started. A quartet of women stood in the fresh air and waning sunlight and sang their hearts out. Their harmony was tight, their passion evident. Gospel songs and Negro spirituals trumpeted through the air. People pressed in to hear, finding seats on the ground.

When the singing ended, I approached the group of women.

“That was amazing,” I said.

I learned they were a family: three sisters—Lynnea, Ivory, and Danielle—and their mother Robin. And they attended a church in north Minneapolis.

“I live in north Minneapolis,” I said. “Your church isn’t far from me.”

“I teach Zumba there on Saturday mornings,” said Lynnea. “You should come.”

I went to Lynnea’s church for her Zumba class the next week, shaking my northern European hips and shoulders in ways they didn’t recognize, and I wiggled my way through a sweaty hour. I wasn’t particularly coordinated, but I returned the next week anyway. And the week after that. Over the chain-link fence one day, I mentioned my Zumba class to Glenda.

“I’ll join you,” she said.

So Glenda came along. And she liked it. She returned the following week with me. And the week after that.

“I think I’ll check out that church on Sunday,” Glenda said in the car on the way home from Zumba one day.

The second Sunday in August, Glenda visited the church. The next day, she visited her doctor.

“We’re detecting something that could be a problem. Maybe a major problem,” he told her. “We’ll need to do surgery to find out.”

 

The thought of taking children in crisis into our home through Safe Families for Children often flitted through my mind. I had contemplated it for months. In August, I again broached the subject with Husband.

“So let’s start the process,” he said. He lived life with his hands open like that.

We dove in. By late September 2012, we had completed the paperwork, the background investigation, the home inspection, the interview with a social worker, and the online training. We were ready.

The phone rang.

“We don’t normally call host families about our urgent needs,” the placement coordinator said. “It’s usually done by email. But this need is still unfilled. If you’re willing, we could use you now.”

We quickly embraced our new title of host family and plunged into our duties when a four-year-old boy was placed in our home the next day. Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka clustered around him when they returned from school. He grabbed their attention and tugged them outside to play basketball. They laughed at his every antic and surrounded his every waking moment.

I had a lump in my throat the day he returned to his mother. As our first, he had helped himself to the first portion of our hearts. And we gladly let him take it with him when he left us.

 

Glenda underwent medical tests, and her surgery was slated for the first week in October. While she was away for two days in the hospital, I checked in on her cats. When she returned home, I called her. She burst into tears on the other end of the line.

“The surgeon stopped the surgery because he saw something bad—spots. He thinks it’s cancer,” she said. “Actually, he’s pretty sure it’s cancer.”

“What can I do?” I said. “I’ll do anything.”

“Can you drive me to my first oncology appointment? Be a second set of ears?”

The next week, I perched on a chair in an exam room. A nurse, svelte and efficient, keyed in information on her computer. Then she slipped out the door. I eyed Glenda, sitting near me. From my purse, I pulled a notepad and pen. My heart drummed, and I exhaled a prayer as the doctor entered the room.

 

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date/

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

© 2014 Tamara Jorell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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