Saturday, June 09, 2018

Happy I was there for it

I haven't been able to spend much time with Caleb and Napoleon this past month. At lunchtime, I've often been too busy to venture out, and after work I've been taking taxis and Ubers because I've had so many personal items to ferry home from the office.* I just haven't had many opportunities to visit.

But Wednesday, I got to catch up with them at their usual spot on busy the corner of Michigan and Randolph. Caleb and Napoleon were enjoying the unseasonably cool weather. Napoleon was curled up, tight as a little fur shrimp, sleeping soundly, as though he didn't have a care in the world. And you know what? He doesn't.

They were visiting with a woman, a tourist from St. Louis who was wearing a CAT LADY t-shirt. She seemed fascinated by how well-fed and decidedly chill Napoleon is. He's big now, formidable, with a good coat. So secure that he didn't even lift his head when we all stood nearby, talking about him.

I had two books for Caleb -- he goes through them so fast it's like he eats them! -- and he had one for me. This interested CAT LADY, too.  He had one for me, too. Thereby Hangs a Tale is a mystery narrated (and, I suspect) solved by a dog, with the help of his human.

I asked about Randi, Caleb's wife, who has had such serious health problems. She's up and walking, though the doctor would prefer her to stay in her wheelchair whenever possible. Frustrated by inactivity, and worried about money, she is helping her former boss, the salon owner, by running errands a couple afternoons/week. I wasn't completely clear on what she's doing, but it involves going to the bank. Her boss is giving her $40/trip, which includes cab fare. Randi's take home then is about $20/trip. The extra money is important because neither Randi nor Napoleon like the man who owns and lives in the house where they have a furnished room. "And," Caleb told CAT LADY, "Napoleon likes everybody. So something is up with that guy."

He also told me how excited he is about his own job. He drives a forklift overnights at a food distribution facility. Later this month, he will be able to work double shifts when his coworkers take their summer vacations. That time-and-a-half!

I could see by CAT LADY's face that this was all very moving to her. This man clearly loves his wife and his cat so much. He is hard working, and so is Randi. He's articulate and bookish. Caleb is not what CAT LADY expected from a panhandler.

She asked if she could take Caleb's and Napoleon's picture. She wanted to show her husband who she met this afternoon, and besides, she wanted him to see that Napoleon is more spoiled than their cats, home in St. Louis. As she was walking away, she slipped a bill into Caleb's hand.

Caleb was thrilled! He said nothing like this had ever happened to him before. He told me the story of last "Christmastime" -- he wasn't sure of the day -- when Randi and Napoleon were out on their corner and a woman handed Randi an envelope. The woman had just left her mother's visitation at St. Peter's in The Loop. Family and friends had left cash to help defray funeral costs but, in honor of the season and her mother's memory, the woman thought it would be better to share the money with Randi. When Randi got back to their tent -- they weren't in the furnished room yet -- she was surprised to find over $200.

I liked Chicago, and I like the world, for the rest of the day.

*Our last day at this location was June 7.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! I LOVE the Chet & Bernie series Caleb introduced you to! They're so much fun.