And when you’re sitting in the comfy chair at a new Starbucks, munching on a cake pop waiting for your WordPress teacher and a strange wandering man politely asks for help, what do you do? We always have a choice. He had just been released from St. Barnabas he said. He needed a lift to the next town over he said. He’d been playing soccer with his sons and somehow got hurt. He’d been put in St. Barnabas for a few days. He wore the requisite bracelets to back up his story. I said his sons wouldn’t just leave him there. He said they were busy. They had things to do. He was staying his mother. His father had died three weeks ago and his mother had Alzheimers. He was in madras shorts with preppy sneakers to make the playing soccer story stick. He’d been an attorney. He graduated from Seton Hall. His ex-wife worked at Merrill Lynch in Short Hills. My teacher was due to arrive at any moment. This was my first class, and I had a perfect parking space.
It was pouring rain and I found it difficult to believe a hospital would just send him out into it, thus. He said they’d given him bus fare and now he needed a ride home. What he needed was someone who cared for him to come and get him. I asked if we could call his ex-wife. We did. As soon as I handed him the phone, he asked her about several houses that were on the market. I said, “tell her where you are. Ask for a lift.” She had hung up by the time he got to that part of the call.
There were a couple of times when I was a strange wandering person. My mother in her last years almost made a living from it. There are times when all one needs is kindness. Alas, we called his brother who was not home, and I left him a voice mail asking that he call the Starbucks in question when he received the message. My teacher arrived and another woman picked up the conversation. It turned out not only were all of the above parts of the puzzle, but that he had been in rehab (it was unclear whether he’d just made a run for it), had been living with friends in Newark who were no longer available, did not have a wallet or a phone, and preferred (strongly) that the police not be called-
The reason for the above ramble is that it turned out this guy was homeless- which can happen so much faster than one would think. This blog started as a simple accounting of fixing up the house. But the reality is we were out on our asses in so many ways and essentially (just like my grandmother Cheerio’s family lore) left in the night, with – at least metaphorically- not much more than the clothes on our backs. Now after five years, we are back, still struggling, but god help us, less clueless and certainly one would hope, more compassionate, too.
It was the police who came and got Andy. They seemed to treat him with some gentleness. I hope they cared enough to take him to his mother’s. During my WordPress lesson, Andy’s brother called. I was in the ladies’ room at the time. He didn’t leave a message.