Mary Fisher's Heroes

Jennifer Anderson, Melvin Pippen and Mary Mider. 

A Circle of Caregivers.
   John Abbot, caregiver coordinator for Food & Friends, was Melvin Pippen's first AIDS caregiver. "Melvin is a character," he said. "I love Melvin. He was one of D.C.'s premier Diana Ross impersonators until he became ill."
   I'd gone with John and Jennifer Anderson, who's Melvin's caregiver now, to meet him at the home of his grandmother, Mary Mider. As we waited outside, Jen talked about "people who have shaped me," referring not to grade school teachers or champions she wanted to imitate, but to those for whom she's cared since joining Food & Friends four years ago.
    Mary Mider came and joined us. She was gracious and had a quiet elegance about her. She told me that Melvin used to sing in the choir at her church. "He used to make everybody happy by his songs. He has a gift." She shook her head. "But he won't go with me anymore. It makes me sad."
    Melvin finally came home. AIDS was having its way with him. It had reduced his physical stamina but had not diminished his character. He was energetic and animated...
    Later, when we were alone, Melvin said to me, "You know, she's the one who gave me my morals. She's the one who always loved me, and I've always loved her, and it's just sometimes I take it out on her." He was crying softly. "Really, I just love her."
    We walked upstairs together and Mary Mider was there, waiting. Melvin walked up and gave her a kiss. She smiled, patted him, and walked away. Later she told me, "I love him, you know. He doesn't think I do. I care for him, but he just doesn't think I do."
    "He knows," I said to her. I reached out to give her a hug and she leaned in to return it. "Let me give you a blessing," she said, whispering a prayer I couldn't quite hear. But I could feel it in my soul.
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