Monday, December 29, 2008

I take it all back...

... at least for today.

I was just in the kitchen and Sam said, "Hey Joj, there are people down there. By the river. Camping."

I growled at the sound of his voice because I've had a grumpy morning. "You mean homeless?"

"I think so."

"We need to take them something. We need to go down there and ask them if they want some coffee." It's below freezing out there.

Without hesitation, even before I had turned around to put the covers back on the binocular lenses, he had his sweats and shoes on and headed out the door. This is not the man I fell in love with. The man I fell in love with was a bit of a miser. IS a miser. But ten years ago, he wouldn't have gone out there.

I watched him with the binoculars as he walked down to where a make-shift tent was shifting in the breeze. I couldn't see everything through the trees, but I could see him walk by a couple of times.

I called him. "So?"

"So, there's a dog in there but it doesn't look like there are any people. I walked to the second pile and it's just a bag of trash that's been ripped open and spread around."

"So, there was just a dog?"

"I guess," he said, sniffling against the cold.

"You have to go see if someone's in there," I said, biting my nails. Every night on the news, they report how many (and where) homeless people died of exposure the night before. What if there was someone dead in there?

"I'm not going in there with a dog." He said. But I could hear the uncertainty in his voice. Could tell he didn't want to come home yet.

"Just say 'is anyone in there?'" and see if someone comes out.

"Okay."

"And ask them if they want some hot chocolate and then call me and I'll make it," I said, already checking my mental inventory of our pantry to see what easy-to-open non-perishables we had. Not very many since we've gone all organic.

I saw him stop in front of the tent. I saw him nervously approach the tent. I saw him walk around the other side. Walk back to the front. Squat down.

A black dog came out and I held my breath for a second, praying that the dog wouldn't attack. You never know. But the dog's tail was wagging.

Sam nodded and stood up, walking away briskly.

I called him. "So?"

"Yeah."

"Coffee or chocolate?"

"Chocolate."

"Can you go to the bakery and see if they have any baguettes?" I asked, kicking myself for not starting my bread earlier in the day or last night even.

"Yeah, but I don't have my wallet," he said.

"Come on up and get it."

"Yeah."

Next thing I knew, he was here and gone.

I got the chocolate started on the stove, but I couldn't for the life of me find those plastic insulated cups I used to have. I think I recycled them in my attempt to get rid of all the plastic. I called him. "Hey, can you go to the droguerie to see if they have any thermoses?"

He didn't argue. He just went.

I put together a sack. A bag of Wheat Thins I knew I would never eat. A box of chocolate Newton kind of things. The rest of our no-bakes. The pastries his sister had given us on Christmas that, though they were good, we would never be able to finish. A small jar of apple butter. A liter of multi-vitamin juice. A liter of apple juice (both in cardboard cartons). A liter of milk. In the mean time, I stirred the chocolate on the stove.

Sam walked in with a thermos, a baguette and a package of hard sausage. He looked down at my bag. "What's this?"

I blushed. "It's just a bag."

"Really?" I could hear the light laughter in his voice.

"It's not much. Really." I blushed and turned away to hide my eyes brimming with tears.

"But we don't know if he's that bad off."

"Bad off? I'm not assuming anything. It's just some juice and leftovers. Nothing big." I shrugged.

"Are you sure?" he said gently.

I nodded, remembering how scared and alone I felt when I lived in a tent. When I was homeless. I nodded again and started to cry softly as I washed the thermos.

"Is it hot enough?" I said, clearing my throat and swallowing my tears.

"Yeah. It's steaming," Sam said as he stirred the chocolate.

I took the pan.

"All of that isn't going to fit in there," he said. Bless his heart.

I poured, confident. And it did fit. The last drop hit the maximum fill limit of the thermos.

"Well, I was wrong," he said, laughing. "You must have known the exact thermos I was going to buy."

I beamed. "Nope. Just further proof."

He smiled and pretended to wave it off. But we've been having a conversation for the past ten years about God, the Universe, coincidence, etc. He's coming around.

He put all the stuff into a cloth bag which I told him to leave with the guy because we have so many our bag closet won't close.

I watched with the binoculars as he walked over there, squatted down, shifted the contents of the bag a little, stood up, nodded, waved and walked away.

I called. "Are you crying?"

"No." Liar.

"So?"

"So, I told him that the chocolate was in the thermos and that you had packed a little food for the day. I told him Bonnes Fetes (happy holidays) and he said Merci et Bonnes Fetes a vous aussi."

Ironically, on the way down, he had run into our neighbor. While I thought the neighbor would snicker at what we were doing, Sam said that he had the opposite reaction. Somber and concerned. That's good to hear.

While I was watching out the window, I looked over and saw Ryan watching, too. He said, "Is that man cold? Can I go share my toys with him?"

Crying, I explained that the man probably was cold and that he didn't have everything he needed like we do. That he probably didn't get to take a bath everyday. That he had to sleep outside and that he didn't have enough food. I even walked Ryan out onto the balcony to show him how cold it was outside compared to our nice warm apartment.

"See, some people don't have everything they need. That's why we should never waste what we have. Why we should always appreciate every single thing we have."

"Let's go give him that stuff he needs, Mama. Can we?"

I started sobbing. I nodded. "Papa took him some hot chocolate and some food."

"Good."


Sam just left my office. He was holding the baby getting her ready to put her down for her nap. And he was crying. Me too. I told him we should look up the local associations to help the needy and homeless. I think that's what he's doing in there in his office because I can hear him sniffling.

I hate a lot of things about him. About how easy it is for him to grow complacent. To lose focus. To lose concentration. But that's not his fault. He didn't have the same life I did. He doesn't know hunger and cold. How can I expect him to know?

But he didn't hesitate. He didn't even ask himself the questions. He didn't keep his shyness from helping that guy out. I can't let him go just for that reason alone. Because, though I know we've got a lot of work to do on our relationship, there IS something that holds me to him. There IS something that makes me love him.

I do love him.

4 comments:

Catherine said...

Such a moving and inspiring post! Made me cry, too!
Bonnes FĂȘtes, Joellie.

Laurel said...

Oh Joelie...as A would say, "I am crying...these are real tears."

mian911 said...

amazing post, I know exactly what you mean, and you told it so well.... you always do :)
Happy holidays to YOU, you have shown your children the TRUE holiday sprit, and there should be more of THAT in the world.....

Lora said...

Oh wow! I'm crying too, what an amazing post. I usually just lurk :)

Lora from CM