Downtown by Harly Didawick

Looking upon the Kanawha River glistening like glitter on the surface with a family skipping rocks in the distance, I wondered what life would be like having a happy family. My childhood was never easy, chaos to say the least. Most of my life I lived with my grandmother because my parents were drug addicts. Unfortunately, my grandmother lost her battle with breast cancer a couple of years ago. It felt like I lost my whole heart, my other half, and the woman who taught me everything I know. Every weekend I make the twenty minute trip south to Charleston. My grandma brought me here as a child because it was her favorite city in West Virginia. The city feeling, flowing river, and rolling hills had a permanent place in her heart. 

Sweat was dripping from my forehead, and my mouth was crying for something to drink. I walked up the riverside towards Capitol Street. “Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream,” in teal lettering, was in front of me. A smile appeared across my face because my grandma used to work here.  I started to open the door, but something in the distance caught my eye. A tent. Maybe someone’s home, if that is even what you want to call it. My grandma always told me about the homeless that lived at the end of the street, but I never got to meet them. As I got closer, I saw a woman sitting beside the light post. “Hello darling,” she said in country slang. It startled me. I wasn’t expecting her to say anything. 

“Hey there!”

“How are you doing, darling?”

“I am doing okay, how are you?”

“I could be better.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine.”

“What’s your name?”

“My name is Lily. What’s yours?”

“Roselyn.”

“It’s lovely to meet you Roselyn. I have to go back home. Have a good day.” She didn’t respond, but a look of disappointment crossed her face. “Was I the only person she has talked to in a while?” 

The weekend drew to an end, but I kept finding myself thinking about Roselyn. I could not put a finger on why. She was someone who I talked to for only two minutes, so why has she made this much of an impact on me? Every weekend I continued to travel to Charleston, and made an effort to go and talk to Roselyn. The more I talked to Roselyn, the more I thought about her. I finally was able to put a finger on why. She possessed many of the qualities that my grandmother had. I thought that was all we had in common, until I visited one weekend in October. I walked past Ellen’s and saw Roselyn sitting by the light pole again. She looked sad. I wasn’t even close to her, and I heard her yell, “Hey Lily. Can I tell you something?”

I started lightly jogging towards her and replied with,“Of course, are you okay?”

“I have been living on the street for about three years now, and it is the worst feeling in the world. I wasn’t able to be the supportive mother my kids expected me to be. My three children are grown, but they have kids. I HAVE GRANDKIDS LILY! I will never be able to see them, if I do not get my life together.  No matter what job I try to get, minimum wage is just not enough to support myself. I am nearing the end of my strength. Sleeping on bare, cold concrete in the chilling West Virginia wind is absolute hell. All I want, more than anything in the world, is to have a normal life back, but everyone that passes thinks I’m playing a game.” 

She immediately put her face in the palm of her hands. Tears began to seep through the cracks of her fingers. I was speechless. How in the world can her kids just abandon her when they know she needs help? It’s their mother for crying out loud. 

“Roselyn, that is awful! Why would they just leave you in the dust like that?”
“I think embarrassment took over them, and they did not want their mother staying in the same house as them. Honestly, I just want someone to accept me for who I am. I am willing to rekindle my relationship and prove to them that I can turn my life around for the better.”

“You have an amazing heart for always finding the positive in every situation.” I started to become emotional because all I could think about was how my grandma’s long lost “twin” was looking at me in the eyes.

“What’s wrong sweetheart?”

“My parents were too concerned about drugs when I was growing up, so I lived with my grandma. She was the only mother figure I had. She was my whole world. A couple of years ago, she lost her battle with breast cancer. I struggled to cope with not having her in my life; it felt like God ripped half of my heart out of my chest. I travel down here to Charleston every weekend because this city reminds me the most of her. Roselyn, when I first talked to you, I immediately knew that you had a sweet heart. The more I talked to you, the more qualities that my grandma possessed I saw in you. You have made an impact in my life in a short amount of time, which I am sure sounds absolutely insane.”

“Awww, that is sweet dear! No one will ever replace her. She is always with you. You may not realize it, but she is your guardian angel.” Tears began to fill my eyes. I thought to myself maybe Roselyn is a sign from my grandma. A crazy thought was racing through my mind, “should I take her under my wing?” 

“Hey Roselyn! Would you like to live with me?”

“No sweetheart, you do not have to do that for me.”

“I really want to. I am taking this as a sign from my grandma.” 

Roselyn, with tears streaming down her face, hugged me with everything she had. “Thank you so much!” 

We walked down the street and back to where this journey all started. The sun began to lower behind the rolling hills and the color blush pink danced in the evening sky. The Kanawha River was making its way around the brightly lit city. We sat along the riverbed and watched the sunset. I looked up at the sky and thanked God for making my heart feel whole again. 

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