That’s what she said when she was reminding herself to be steady on uneven ground. “Whoopsie,” she’d say, coming down the wet steps leading from the front porch of the home where she had just delivered a hot meal.
Barbara Williams is 75 years old. She’s been retired from teaching school here in Birmingham for more than two decades. These days, she’s busy with church and friends, but on Mondays she comes to the local Meals on Wheels office to pick up the meals that shut-in folks are counting on.
At her age, and with her mobility issues, Barbara is fully qualified to say home and have meals delivered to her, but she’d rather do this. She says the good Lord watches over her as she goes from house to house and slowly bags up the items that are to be delivered to each person.
There are non-refrigerated items, and a hot plate of food. She takes the food to the front door and knocks and then patiently waits. She knows it might take a minute or two for some of the folks to come to the door. She might spend 5 minutes or less with each person, but it might be the only visitor they have all day, maybe all week. So, the food is important, but the visit, the contact, is looked forward to as well.
Each home, each answered door has a story. The first lady insisted we come in. She wanted to show me the picture of her beautiful daughter. She was so pretty and I asked where she is now. The sweet lady’s eyes filled with tears and her voiced cracked as she told me that her daughter died two years ago. We hugged and I tried to say something nice, but I did thank her for sharing this with me.
At the next house it took an awfully long time for the man in the wheelchair to come to the door. He’d never walked, had been in a wheelchair all of his life. We didn’t go in, Mrs. Williams just reminded him to eat before he takes his medicine. They say that when the man was a young boy, he’d sit in his chair and watch other boys play ball. On the rare occasion that the ball would come his way, he’d get hold of it and not want to give it back. I can understand that.
At the last home where Mrs. Williams delivered food lived a man that she says plays the guitar like you’ve never heard. She said he wrote some great music, but somebody stole it from him. We weren’t invited in there, sometimes you are sometimes you’re not.
I followed Mrs. Williams down the wet broken steps of that home. “Whoopsie” she said, and added “that’s my little word, whoopsie.” It reminds her to be careful and I hope she always is. These people need her… we all do.
I’ll try to put words to the pictures I took today of Barbara Williams and it’ll be tomorrow night’s Spirit of Alabama report. I hope I do her justice.
I’ll see you tonight at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00pm.