activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press

Florence in Words

Depression and the Kindness of Strangers and Family

November 29, 2016

Tags: depression, family

I took three taxis today. Yes, though I am going broke, I have no other way of moving around New York City, since I am not mobile enough to deal with public buses or subways. I continue to be struck by the kindness of these taxi drivers, since stopping for me means that they need to get out of their seats and actively help me and my walker enter their cabs. And sometimes it doesn’t work and they need to leave me and move on. Never have I heard an unkind word; never has anyone been anything but kind and considerate of my feelings.

And of course that made me think about the people close to me, many of who are distinctly inconvenienced by my state, as well as, and I am guessing here, disappointed that things are not as easy as they used to be. I am not who I used to be. And perhaps I am on a roller coaster that moves only in one direction….downwards.

Today, I saw the young man, Aki, who has been cutting my hair for the last ten or fifteen years, during which time he has married and become the father of two darling little girls, now six months and three years. I made a sweater and hat for the first little girl, nothing yet for the second, but she may have used them as well. Aki suggested quietly that perhaps the next time I need a haircut he would come to me, since the ice and snow would not be possible for me to traverse. Even today, it was difficult to get up the cement steps to the hallway and then into an elevator. And a very kind young woman offered to see me downstairs and to get a taxi for me, since I was going on to see dear Dr. Charney, the neurologist who was so brilliant about Mariam Chamberlain’s emergency treatment that she lived her last six years in relative physical comfort.

Dr. Charney has also been kind, considerate, and clever with regard to what ails me, though he also has not offered what isn’t possible. For me, his comforting assurance that I was not a candidate for Alzheimer’s has been most important. I’ve often said that I could live with disability as long as I could use my fingers at a keyboard. And that is now where I am. But I can’t walk normally and no one can tell me why not. Dr. Charney once again offered rehab to me. I tell him my feet are sometime burning hot and he murmurs neuropathy and offers me a tiny dose of something that may stop the heat. Take these and call me on Friday, he says.

Where am I going?--you may be asking. I began with the kindness of strangers, moved on to people whom I have known for some years, but the person in my head when I began to write was AnnJ, my daughter-in-law, who spent her days researching walkers to find one that she knew would please me. See the photo of the walker both opened and closed. It goes to the opera and the theatre quite easily, as well as to doctors, and even to a grocery store for a couple of things. And I haven’t been thinking of Thanksgiving, though there must have been some thought of the holiday in my spirit tonight as I sit here and enjoy the movement of my fingers on the keyboard.

Enjoy tomorrow….though this message may reach you days later. We can’t go on mourning. We need action, vigilance, intelligence, and planning for the future….Would that I could heed my own words!


  1. December 1, 2016 12:47 AM EST
    Hello Florence. Nice to hear your voice through your wonderful writing. I feel for you and the struggle with mobility and pain. The burning pain sounds horrible! Is the medication helping? I am glad all the taxi drivers have been so nice. Did you know that I used to drive a cab here in San Francisco. I did it for about a year and a half in the mid-1980's. I created a short theatrical piece about it, called, TAXI!. Many people with mobility issues had something called Taxi Scrip which gave them discounted rides. I looked up MOPD and have copied some of what they offer here for you to explore. Hope it helps. Lets do what we can during this politically scary time. Or Call at (718)-332-1216

    Visit their website

    Free Transportation Program for Seniors and the Disabled

    Freedom Van
    Run by the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, Freedom Van was created as a free transportation option for disabled individuals in Manhattan, as well as and seniors 60 years and older. Vans transport passengers to and from medical appointments, hospitals, shopping centers and recreational activities.

    Unlike other transportation services, Freedom vans must be booked on Tuesdays at least one week in advance. Trips with escorts are only available on Wednesdays and Thursdays who will accompany the rider from their pickup location and will walk the passenger to their appointment.

    To book a van call: (212)-956-0840
    Hours of Operation: 9:30am-3:00pm
    For more information download the flyer (in PDF)

    Project Cart
    In partnership with Freedom Van, Project Cart van service provided specialized transportation for seniors within Manhattan. The service travels from the Battery to East 96th and West 110th. In addition to providing transportation to medical appointments, hospitals, and recreational activities, C.A.R.T. delivers meals to homebound seniors. Freedom Van helps with this gap.

    To book a van call: (212)-956-0840
    For more information visit their website
    - Julie Nicholson
  2. December 12, 2016 8:24 PM EST
    Hi Florence, This is my second attempt at responding to your post. Of course, it is a new day and I cannot recall or recreate much of what I said before. One thing I looked into for you was New York City's taxi voucher or "scrip" program to help those with mobility issues offset taxi costs. The City has several programs which might be of help to your pocketbook and fit your transportation needs.

    Whenever I read your writing I can so clearly hear your voice, cadence and inflection and the words are taken in even further. I loved seeing and sharing time with you in Mallorca. I will send you some photos when I get around to printing them, or is emailing them preferable? Take care, let me know you got this, be in touch. Love, J.
    - julie nicholson
  3. December 13, 2016 1:06 PM EST
    Why would you expect anything but kindness and consideration as you make your way. It is the responsibility of the able to help out. Elders are important and should be revered. You know about little people on the shoulders of giants. Our giants are essential to our view.
    - Don

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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