“Thank you for sending a package to Jim and Glenda,” Mom said. “You know,” she hesitated, “nobody loves the homeless.”
I’ll never forget her words. It was kind of a happy sad moment. Mom was relating the joy and excitement she’d witnessed when my brother Jim and his girlfriend, Glenda, opened the Christmas package I’d sent to her apartment in California from my home in New York. I don’t even remember now what was in it but enjoyed hearing how it had been received.
I was not alone in doing for Jim – far from it. Mom and Dad had nine children and all of my sisters and our brother, Tim, worked and prayed and gave aid to our heroin addicted brother with love and devotion over the course of his life. At the time I sent the package Jim was already in his late forties and had been a street person for many years.
I’m giving this lead in to the following story because Jim and I were writing buds. It was about all I could do living so far away. We exchanged many letters over a good span of years. I always put a piece of gum in the envelope and he usually sent one back, sometimes the same piece! It was kind of a running joke between us. In his letters the hard kernel of who he really was came out. He used his God-given wit and a wry sense of humor that enabled him to observe and write about his own life in a way that surprised us all. Here is a letter he sent to me a few years ago. It was neatly penned while he sat on a motel room bed shortly after he and Glenda married. I have edited it lightly for clarity.
Walking from somewhere, upon our travels, Glenda and I decide to stop and take a break. Chancing at a market, we decide to refresh ourselves, tea for Glenda and a beer for me. Glenda asks if she can buy a scratcher ticket. Seeing the smile on her face, I nod my head. We step outside and commence behind the store. She scratches and in disbelief we win $10. After we enjoy our refreshments, we proceed back to the market. We exchange the ticket for the $10. With a smile I say to the cashier, "Looks like a free lunch to me." He looks back and says, "It sure does."
In the same mini mall there is a Juan Pollo. We step inside, Glenda orders 3 $5.49 lunches. I ask her, "Why are you ordering 3? We only won $10."
She replies back to me, "Well it's for free."
I say to her, "No, it's not. The free lunch came from the ten dollars we won."
"But you and the clerk said we get a free lunch."
"No, no, no," I say to Glenda. "We still have to give them the money we won from the scratcher ticket."
Glenda looks at me and says, "No, you're just stupid, Jim."
By this time the cook / cashier approaches the counter, looks at me and says, "Are you talking to me?"
Politely I say, "No, I am talking to my wife." (I feel like I'm in a Robert De Niro flick now). I reply to the middle aged Hispanic woman, "When I look at you then I'm talking to you. When I look at my wife then I’m talking to her!" Now my head is going from one woman to the other. Both of them yapping at me. Glenda marches out the front door, again calling me stupid.
I look back at the cashier and apologize, saying, "I'm sorry, my wife is a litt bit crazy, uh, you know loco," as I index finger circles my ear. She replys back to me with her hands on her hips, "Dis is not Pollo Loco, dis is Juan Polo."
I smile and say, "Yeah, I read the sign out front. They're all chicken houses to me."
She replies, "Are you calling me a chicken?"
"No," I say. "I call KFC the same thing, chicken houses. This is the dialect I use." By now all heads in the restaraunt are turned towards me. Glenda re-enters the fast food place. I convince her that we can only get 1 each as that will only leave three dollars. She understands now and we sit and enjoy our meal.
Had I been smarter, I would have said, "Let's go get lunch dear," instead of saying "we get a free lunch," had I realized the avalanch that would follow my slang term.
Funny how a few simple words can mess up your whole lunch.
Note: Mom and Jim both died last year within a few months of each other. Jim was 55 years old. Towards the end of his life we signed our letters G.I.G.A.T.T. God is good all the time.
Glenda, a severe epileptic, is in a home.