Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sharing WowBao

Wednesday I saw all three of them: Napoleon, Caleb and Randi! They were in one of their usual spots, the corner of Michigan and Lake. And, since they were sitting on cardboard on the icy sidewalk and it was starting to snow, seeing them made me sad.

I was worried that this meant they were once again homeless and jobless. After all, why else would anyone be on the street in this weather? And I saw a wheelchair. Does this mean that Randi's cancer came roaring back with a vengeance?

I needn't have worried. For while the news I learned wasn't good, it wasn't dire. Caleb still has a job -- a good union job, driving a forklift -- but he is currently unable to work. In November, he fell down in the warehouse and tore ligaments that have been slow to heal. Hence the wheelchair. Short-term disability pay isn't his full salary, and they simply don't have enough to pay their January bills. And so, for the next week and a half, until he is cleared to go back to work, they are going to panhandle.

Randi is still unable to work, something related to her prescription medications. When she was out of earshot, what Caleb whispered touched me. She's running low on makeup, and it's hard for her "not to feel pretty." I remember last year, when her cancer treatment resulted in a complete hysterectomy, and how unfeminine she felt. He loves his wife very much.

At first it seemed strange to me that begging is their go-to. But to them, it's an honest way of life. They are short on cash, they are having trouble making ends meet. They are not asking for cash under false pretenses. And they don't want to lose their home.

They still live in a single repurposed room above his boss' garage. It has heat, running water, and it's safe at night. They still keep all their belongings in suitcases loaded onto a grocery cart, except now they don't have take everything they own with them everywhere they go. Randi was almost giddy about being invited to the movies with another couple. They didn't go -- no money -- but in the past it was something they couldn't do because they couldn't leave their stuff anywhere.

And Napoleon is a healthy bruiser! He climbed up my leg, just like he did as a kitten. But he's huge, 15 lbs. of feline. While Caleb was talking to me, Napoleon climbed into his lap and helped himself to the bowl of WowBao someone kind person had given them. Napoleon had kibble and water, but WowBao was hot and Napoleon is no fool.

I promised Caleb and Randi I would look for books for him and pants (size XL) for her. He's currently go through the Bourne books, a set he found somewhere. And she needs big pants because her meds cause her weight to fluctuate. It's important to note that Caleb asked only for the books -- not money nor the clothes -- because he knows I pick them up from the Little Free Library. More than money or things, they like to talk. As Randi once said to me, she appreciates being treated like a woman, not a homeless woman.