The thud of pool balls dropping into table pockets doesn’t drown out the trendy music played by a DJ and empty beer bottles clanking as the waitress delivers another round.
The waitress smiles as she works, and to most customers, she’s just another gal working in another pool hall in Harker Heights. But there’s more to her story.
Belton resident Karen Wall, 37, is the single mom of two sons with special needs. She’s a teacher at Audie Murphy Middle School in Killeen, but she also works as a part-time waitress at Cabaret 7 in Harker Heights and has worked as a bartender and waitress at several other clubs in the area.
Why does she waitress?
“My boys have to see three specialists every three months and my portion of what my insurance doesn’t pay is $200 per specialist and ... it’s fun, it’s my only social life,” Wall said.
Wall’s oldest son, Elliott, 8, has floating-harbor syndrome, a condition marked by short stature, delayed speech and bone development. The condition is so rare that only about 50 cases were reported in medical literature, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Robert Wall is her youngest son and, at 4, more of a talker than Elliot. Robert is currently labeled as autistic, but his mother feels it’s not an accurate diagnosis. She’s currently saving money to have genetic testing done for Robert.
“The test costs $3,000 and insurance doesn’t cover any of it,” Wall said.
As the child of a Marine, she enjoys teaching at Fort Hood, where she can relate to her students.
“I was a Marine brat and know what it’s like to have a parent in the military,” Wall said. “I feel like I am giving back to the community being able to help the students.”
Currently teaching sixth-grade history, Wall uses lessons from history to help students who come to her with modern-day problems.
“Sometimes they don’t understand their parents, and I will ask them what England would do because America was England’s child,” she said. “It helps them see things differently.”
Wall said a perfect day with her children would be “a picnic at the lake playing all day then home for baths and bed where they sleep all night.”
Asked about a perfect day for her alone, tears filled her eyes and she shook her head.
“That’s too hard. I don’t think about that; it’s about the boys right now. I try to give them as much of a childhood as I can.”
Both boys are involved in sports through Special Olympics, and Wall keeps her sons involved in community activities, too. Organizing “End the R-Word” rallies in the spring and festivals in the fall where children of all ability levels can participate, keeping track of two jobs, two kids, volunteer times and a household can sometimes be overwhelming for Wall.
But then there’s the moments like these that make everything worthwhile.
“My favorite thing about my mom is that she takes us to the lake and she loves me and I love her with all my heart,” Elliott said.
And that’s why Wall keeps waitressing.
Herald/ Kathryn Leisinger