Thursday, September 14, 2017

I like to think it was the Ann Rule book

I saw Napoleon's dad yesterday.  He was alone -- no wife, no kitten. A solitary figure on a street corner, huddled against a street lamp, behind a sign that reads, "Homeless and ashamed," with a Big Gulp cup for collecting donations.He had his nose buried in a paperback.

If I understand his schedule, he leaves for Indiana tonight (Thursday), where he spends two days/week learning a new trade -- window washing. His goal is to first move to a shelter that affords regular access to running water and then, hopefully, an apartment. Once they live where they can dependably have clean hair and clothes, his wife will try to pass the Indiana boards so she can resume working as a cosmetologist.

Dad didn't see me. I'm glad. I didn't have any change for him -- the only bills in my purse were $5s and I couldn't afford that -- and I didn't really have time to talk. But it made me happy that he seemed so enthralled in that book. Earlier this week I gave him an Ann Rule book I found at my local Free Little Library. He loves books, especially true crime. Rule is an author he mentioned by name. I'm glad I could unite a book which might otherwise be discarded with a reader who will really concentrate on it. Win-win!

It hurts to think about

I still haven't heard another peep from Henry and Reg, other than they're "fine."And don't get me wrong -- I'm beyond grateful that they made it through Irma. I feel blessed that their love and support is still out there somewhere.

But tonight I saw a shocking sight. News footage of an Army helicopter landing at the "Sears Town" Publix and troops distributing bottled water and emergency meal rations to the Key West residents. There's no food, no running water, no electricity. The island is so isolated, there's no way to reach it by the highway and as of today (Wednesday), the port is still closed. I didn't see Henry or Reg in line for handouts, but that's not really a comfort. It could just mean they didn't have a running car to get to the shopping center. Without electricity, gas can't be pumped into cars.

At dusk on a better day
I know that Publix store. It's usually our first stop after Henry picks me up at the airport. I get my Coke and apple or orange juice to stock my little hotel frig or ice bucket. As we walk the aisles, I tell him anecdotes about my flights and the harrowing adventures I had changing planes in Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale. He tells me what kind of mood Reg is in, and how much time they both have been able to get off work so that we can all spend time together during my visit. We have done this at least 18 times.

I know it sounds mundane, just grabbing something cool to drink and checking out through the "10 items or less" line. These are memories I didn't even know I had, much less cherish.

But tonight, I long to wander those aisles under fluorescent lights, talking about the minutiae of our lives. I don't want to think of those guys hot, hungry, dehydrated and suffering.

I can't wait to be looking back on these helpless, frustrating days.