by Christy Monson
We writers find our story characters from people all around us—including those we know and love. This mission of ours is providing a glimpse into a culture and, more importantly, lives that we would otherwise never see. Book characters present themselves at every turn.
One enthusiastic sister (let's call her Sally) had a hip replacement this past week. We are the ones caring for her because her kids all live in California.
She tells us, "Most of my family members left here in Memphis are either too old or too young to help me, and I am fighting with the rest."
She has her surgery, and we are to be at the hospital when she wakes up. We think we have it timed right, but as we are getting into the car to meet her, the phone rings.
"Where is you? Y'all get down here! I needs help!"
The hospital is in inner city Memphis. We snake in and out of streets named after the Presidents—Adams, Monroe, Jefferson—until we find the hospital. We get free parking and the royal treatment because we are ministers. Everyone is so respectful of Christians in this part of the country.
As we get off the elevator on the fourth floor and walk toward the patient's rooms, we can hear Sally yelling clear down the hall. "Ohhhh! So much pain. They not giving me enough pain pills."
We walk in the room, and she repeats her moan and plea for pills. We hug, and she gives us a recap of all the proceedings from the time she arrived at the hospital up to this moment. Her mood lightens, and we laugh.
Sally lives life LARGE and wears her emotions on her sleeve.
Soon her sister whooshes into the room. She's another living life LARGE person. She drops two big bags of fruit—oranges, apples, grapes, and bananas—along with a six-pack of Pepsi on the side board. "And junk food!" She laughs, bringing out an assortment of candy bars and chips.
I make a note. Sally is not fighting with everyone.
"Oh, give me some of them," says Sally. She reaches for a Pepsi, banana, and candy bar. I wonder how she can do this. She's only been out of the recovery room an hour.
These two sisters laugh and trade stories and talk about themselves. Their only volume is loud, and we are caught up in the grandness of it all.
The sister drives an eighteen-wheel rig. She hauls cross country with a base in Utah. "Those Utah people gave me a Mormon Bible."
"Book of Mormon," corrects Sally.
"No, a Mormon Bible with a blue leather cover," says her sister. "I like those Mormons."
I make a note. We'll get the young Elders over to Sally's house when her sister is there. (Missionaries focus on baptisms, so we are always thinking of potential converts.)
I tell Sally we need to go. We don't want to tire her, but I do need a photo. I pull out my phone, and Sally's sister literally runs to get in the picture. Her step dad has come also, so everybody's in.
What a zest for life! I think I'm enthusiastic, but I can't hold a candle to these wonderful people who devour life. They gobble it up in large hungry bites, wasting not a single crumb. What a blessing to get to know them. We are so grateful.
Will they wend their way into my writing? They already have. :}