Sunday, August 5, 2007

Interview at Edna's House

On Thursday Rachel, Jeannie and I visited the home of Edna, a widow to a former Apopka farmwoker. Edna waited for us expectantly and greeted us with a motherly smile. “C’mon, “C’mon in!” She repeated from the timid and worn wooden stairs outside her front door, waving to us in her pink floral dress and gold bejeweled sandals. Edna walked Rachel, Jeannie, and I into her home after greeting us warmly on the wooden stairs built on top of her overgrown yard. Meeting her was like reuniting with a relative or an old friend; someone we hadn’t seen in years but managed to somehow keep in touch. Edna left a comb in her smoothed hair and invited us to sit down in the front room of her home. The small room was outfitted with two worn couches and a small television. One wall was covered with wood-grain shelving paper, while the others were a faded dull yellow with occasional cracks and holes. Various knickknacks and decorative elements filled the room for a more personal touch; a lamp missing a lampshade adorned a small side table, and the seats of the couches were covered with pillowcases to hide their wear. The walls featured pictures of relatives and a canvass of a waterfall.

Once settled and after figuring out how to operate the video camera, we asked Edna to tell us her story. She began by telling us about her husband, who had worked on farms since he was a young boy, and suffered a stroke late in his life. After speaking for only a short while two of her daughters, Whitney and Sandra, entered the house and sat with us. Whitney and Sandra were more emotionally charged than Edna; a lifetime of hardship left them outraged with their country, questioning how such a wealthy nation could have such poverty and little assistance for those in need. Whitney and Sandra picked up where Edna left us, describing their father’s and their own skin problems from contact with pesticides, and their lack of medical care. Whitney and Sandra suffer from serious medical problems but cannot find treatment because of the overcrowded dental clinics and limited expertise of the health clinic. Sandra’s children also need specialist attention as they have behavior issues such as difficulty with anger management and A.D.D.

As health concerns of this community become increasingly apparent, so do serious social concerns. Whitney and Sandra are not eligible for Medicaid—the $323 a week Sandra earns is too much money for assistance. Frustrated for having worked her entire life and having only a stack of medical bills to show for it, Whitney began to cry. “Our daddy spent his whole life working on the farms, and we have nothing to show for it.” At that moment I realized the extent of the hardship these women had faced. Edna’s outlook on life was slightly more positive because of her faith in God, it kept her strong in difficult times, especially while taking care of her husband after she suffered from an aneurism.

When we got up to leave we all hugged and Edna, Whitney, and Sandra thanked us for listening to them. We told them we were happy to listen but we want to do more—we want to take action to help end their suffering and marginalization. As we walked out the door and onto the damp wooden stairs, we could hear Edna’s motherly voice behind us.
“Hold on to the handrail now!” Edna said gently, expressing her concern for our safety, as if guiding a child through a treacherous path. I felt regardless of age or how long one knew Edna, she considered everyone her children, and looked after them accordingly. How is it a mother to everyone she meets cannot get a larger system of support for herself?

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