March 10, 2009

Who is Rich?

Went to cocktail party at quite possibly the swankiest estate I have set foot on. (Excepting that black-tie soirée I attended in the Throne Room of King George V's summer palace just outside Lisbon on the coast of Portugal, but that was years ago.) Anyway, when I drove up to the stone and iron-gated estate to roll down my window to inter-com the butler (well, the 16-year old son), it was clear this was a party waay beyond my normal Saturday night lounge-around in the city with friends.

Indeed, Broke Girl had a gay old time, knowing she enjoys her life and presumably suffers no more (and possibly less) angst than those recently-forcefully-but-happily retired-from-their-seven-figure-income investment-banking-gig partygoers who will never have to work another day even if the stock market continues to crumble, because they have so much cash.

All in a day... and I am pretty sure that I enjoy my days of cliff-hangingly broke nearly as much as they do theirs...of hiking Kilimanjaro, Everest, and perfecting their stroke (golf and swim), stance (snowboard), back-cast (flyfish) and backhand (tennis).

Okay, forgive that overwrought attempt. But I'm not sure what those people do other than have their nails buffed every three days and call their banker to check balances.

So what did I do today? My life consists much of hanging out with the dreadfully poor or disenchanted amongst us. So after Saturday night's soirée, I today hung out with my poor peeps.

I am the adoptive mother—so to speak—of a woman whom I'll call "W". She is indigent, but there are twenty other descriptors that better describe this scrappy survivor of a woman; having lived like nobody you'll ever know on the streets of Chicago for the past 30 of her 46 long years.

I am her court-appointed legal guardian, and that is a crazy, ten-volume story for the ages. That is—our 22-year friendship which led to a graying and very Irish-looking Cook County Circuit Court Judge peering over his glasses to nearly bellow at me one day last summer, "Well—what in the world would possibly compel you to want to be this woman's legal guardian. Do you have any idea what you are getting into?" Well, yes, because I have been getting into it for the last 22 years since I met W at a homeless shelter and she glommed on to me and I never let her go.

Anyhow, I don't think our relationship is so different from my relationships with the well-to-do folk at the Saturday night soirée in Barrington Hills. I think they are great and fun people, and über rich; my "adoptive" daughter W is convinced that I am great and fun and also über rich (because I have a house and a car and well, that just makes me wealthy beyond her wildest imagination).

She's sleeping tonight, by the way, either at one of the shelters in the Uptown neighborhood (if she can find one that hasn't permanently barred her), or on the Blue Line (she likes to go to O'Hare, and "watch them helicopters take off—whoooeeee!"). Those are jets, but I know better than to correct her.

So today I picked her up and took her to McDonald's for lunch. And yes, I let her pay for both of us out of her extremely meager funds!

Sometimes that is all it takes to feel rich.


  1. Great story--really got me thinking. Thanks for the post.

    - Peg in Omaha

  2. I want dibs on being your agent if you ever write the above story in book form:) (I'll become an agent again just for you.)

    I've already got titles dancing in my head..

    You are a VERY interesting woman. Next time I am in Chicago, I wanna meet for lunch or dinner just to listen to your life story.

  3. Anonymous above is me, Becky, The Brain on Joy blogger...