A family. Four generations of disability benefits. Will it continue? The number of multi-beneficiary households has increased, especially among the poor.
But some days she wasn’t so sure. As far as she can remember, what she couldn’t do had defined her far more than she could. She grew up looking like other kids, but realized she was different when she ended up in special education classes and her peers laughed at her. Then came the rest: the decision to give up her dream of going to college, the realization that she would never have a job, and the relationship with a disabled man, with whom she already had twins, were starting to cross the same path she had.
She looked at her phone again, pulling up a Facebook photo of another man she was dating briefly.
“I found out he was engaged to get married,” Franny said.
“My God, he looks like his dad,” Kathy said.
“I gave her a pretty woman,” Franny said, returning to videos of herself singing.
Kathy, looking pained by the singing, asked, “What time is it, Franny?”
“9.47am,” she said.
“It’s time to go.”
Franny picked up two bottles of soda for church, walked out to the car, sat in the back seat and, feeling the creak of the car rolling down a gravel road, looked out the window. She saw this gravel road turn into another and another. She saw dirty and deteriorating trailers. She considered a land as flat as it was empty, a land that migrant workers traveled hundreds of miles to cultivate, reaping both that year’s watermelon crop and jobs that few in the community were willing to do. .
“Do you know your Bible verse? Kathy asked for the homework for the adult Bible class.
“No, I always forget to read it,” Franny said before looking out the window again.
Most of the time, it seemed to her that her disabilities were getting worse. Remembering even the most basic things made her head ache, and sometimes she wondered how she had ever graduated from high school. “Like my age is going back,” Franny had said the day before as she struggled to remember that time in her life ten years ago, a time that seemed more and more distant.
The church was on another gravel road, and after Franny got the kids out, she followed Kathy inside, where the people were already singing.
Franny sat in the front and listened to the preacher begin his sermon: “We used to have 60 people in this church, and I saw that there were 13 or 14.” She stood up and, while as the preacher’s face blushed, she stretched out her arms as wide as she could, closed her eyes, tilted her head back and said, “Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesus, thank you, Jesus, thank you Jesus.”
Most of the faithful then approached the scene, as did Franny. Together they started a song, and when that was done everyone went back to their seats. Except for Franny. She looked across the church at the mostly empty chairs. Stationary farm equipment glowed outside a rear window.
A moment passed. She put a hand behind her back. Another moment passed. She shifted her weight from side to side.
Then she took a breath and, exhaling slowly, walked down the stairs and returned to her seat. There would also be no solo this Sunday.
At home a little later, she left alone. She took out her phone. Standing outside in the wind, she sang “Amazing Grace” and, without comment, posted the video on Facebook.
William and Dale were playing video games before school.
“Keep it down, William,” Kathy said, looking at Dale’s fourth grade quiz results over a cup of coffee. “He got a 60 on this one. He got a 67 on that one. Bad grades.”
“Here’s the other page,” Franny said, looking at a score of 75 on a spelling quiz, and Kathy glanced at the boys standing under pictures of them playing Little League Baseball.
Dale yelled at the TV, smashing buttons.
William yelled at the television, twisting his controller.
“Lower it! Kathy said going back to her cafe.