Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Unexpected Knight

by Pat Brown

I know Father's Day has passed, but I want to tell you a story about a knight in shining armor. Well, okay, tarnished armor, and he came riding a Metrobus, had trouble staying gainfully employed, and had a few minor scrapes with the law. When I first met him, I thought he was an opportunist, a petty criminal who was taking advantage of a beautiful, naive woman. I will call him "Charles" and the lady, "Diana."

I interpreted for Diana for quite a few years at the hospital. She was a sweet, African-American deaf woman who had a difficult childhood growing up in foster homes. It wasn't that she was a problem child; she was simply abandoned to the system. When she became an adult, she lacked education and job skills, and she struggled to survive, living in less than great circumstances. And then, as happens far too often to women, especially those who are targeted because they can't hear you coming, she was raped.

But Diana kept her head up. She believed in God and in good, and she didn't let what had happened to her destroy her soul. Then she met Charles. A hearing man who knew no sign language, he still managed to woo her and within a short period of time, he married her.

By the time Diana introduced me to Charles, she was working a steady job and he was getting into trouble here and there, landing himself in jail on occasion. I wondered whether he saw this Deaf woman as a good mark, someone to take advantage of. He moved into her apartment, and I thought he might be mooching off of her, using her income which included disability checks. I wondered how well he treated Diana, if he abused her or cheated on her. Finally, one day, I found out just what kind of man Charles really was.

Diana was pregnant with their first child. Together they came in for her appointment and to get results from the various tests run on pregnant women. The two were waiting in the room with me when the doctor walked in. He sat down and started reading the results from the paper in front of him; he didn't raise his head to make eye contact. As soon as I saw his demeanor, I knew what was coming.

I interpreted. "I am sorry to tell you that your HIV test came back positive."

I will never forget what happened next. Shock registered on both their faces, and Charles's hands flew up to the side of his head, framing his horrified expression. Then he stood up and abruptly walked out of the room, leaving his wife alone with me.

Tears started sliding down Diana's cheeks and she asked, "Why? Why me? Why now?" I had no answer for her. I moved over next to her and put my arm around her, and she cried quietly onto my shoulder. Minutes passed and I wondered what this poor woman was going to do.

Then the door opened and Charles came back in and sat back down in his chair, grim-faced.

I moved away from Diana and sat down in my seat again.

Diana turned to look at Charles and started signing. I interpreted because, while Charles had learned a little sign language, he would not be able to understand what Diana was saying at a time like this.

"Charles," she signed, "if you want to leave me, I understand." She looked resigned already, simply waiting for confirmation.

Charles looked at her and shook his head and as he spoke, Diana turned to watch my hands to see his answer.

"Diana," he said quietly and strongly. "You are my wife. I love you. I will never leave you."

The look on Diana's face, the astonishment, the happiness, overcame the cruel sentence of the test results. Her knight in shining armor had shown up, even though he had been there all along.

Ten years have passed since that day and just a couple of months ago, a car drove up to my house and Charles and Diana got out, along with their daughter and son. We spent a wonderful evening together. The children were lovely, well-behaved kids, and their parents clearly adored them. Diana looked healthy and happy. Both Charles and Diana are gainfully employed and while they aren't rich by any means, they have a home full of love.

When they left, Charles helped Diana and the children into the car and then ran back to me.

"Those kids don't know how lucky they are," he said to me. "And you know what I mean," And then he winked at me, ran back to his waiting family, jumped in the car and drove off.

Victims of crimes often suffer financial, physical and emotional loss. But the worst of these three is the pain of destroyed relationships, of spouses and significant others bailing out because they don't want to deal with their mates' issues or their own issues. Diana suffered loss after her rape, but she was blessed with the kind of man every woman hopes will be there when the chips are down and the road ahead is going to be tough.

I wish every other woman in this world who ends up a victim of a sexual assault would get her own knight in shining armor; one special loving man, just like Charles.


Kathryn Casey said...

Reading this was a good way to start the day, Pat. Made me smile.

Pat Brown said...

Me too. And you know, when they showed up again after all those years (actually, after they had their baby girl, they came to live with me for a year), I was thrilled to see they were still together. Charles meant what he said that day.

TigressPen said...

What a heartwarming story. 'Charles' grew up, became a man the hard way.

Pat Brown said...

I don't know how many of you who read this article will see this comment but I wanted to update you.

Three weeks ago, Diana died after at home after her health took a sudden turn for the worst. She lived with HIV for 17 years and saw her children almost make it to adulthood. She died in her living room hospice bed while Charles slept next to her on the couch.

The children are doing well and Charles is staying in one of my rooms with his son as he and his kids relocate to a new apartment.

Diana must be looking down, pleased that Charles is working hard to see their now teen children do well in school and go on to college.

God bless them all.