January 20, 2013
We have started our annual Middle Of Winter food and clothing drive. So far, it has been a great success as it has in the past with loads going out nearly every day to Central Oregon Veterans Outreach who in turn distributes them to the homeless in our community. Someone even left a brand new Calvin Klein blanket. Wow!
I came into the diner last week and was called up to see a lady who was waiting for me. She looked to be in her 50's or so. Blond hair sprayed over her head, leathery skin that seemed to state that it had seen the sun quite often, and a smile that showed teeth that could use some attention. It seemed pretty obvious that she had lead a hard life.
Her eyes darted back and forth as she talked. "That stuff in the entry way", she said, "Is it for the homeless?". "Yes, it is.", I answered. "Well, I am homeless and I need a sleeping bag.", she stated. I knew that there was one in one of the bins as I had just finished sorting them out. "There is one out there...it is yours if you need it.", I told her.
She threw her arms around my neck and thanked me. I returned her hug. I could smell the smells of camp life on her. A sort of musty mixed in with smoke. "You are welcome.", I told her.
I thought of offering her breakfast but she looked well fed and when I asked her if there was anything else that we could do, she stated that all she needed was a sleeping bag. I figured that would be the last that I saw of her.
I was informed later that she had been peeking in the windows as if to see if there was anything else that she could get.
My friend, Frank, from the band of brothers who helps us out by fixing chairs that need repair stopped in to swap a couple out. We stood in the parking lot and talked a bit. We both heard a sort of high pitched scream and turned to see the same lady yelling and waving her hands wildly in the air.
I apologised to Frank and excused myself as I followed her into one side of the entry and out the other. She saw me following her and began to make a speedy exit.
"Excuse me", I yelled out to her. "You are going to need to go.". "Did you hear me yelling?", she asked. "Yes", I answered. "I can't have you scaring off my guests".
"Well, it is not my fault.", and she began a rant of how her sister had taken everything that she owned back in the 70's. She then went on to try and describe what her sister looked like down to the wart on the side of her nose. Her arms waved wildly as I listened to her talk of her sister and then she stopped and stared at me. "You know that sleeping bag you gave me?", she asked. "Well, I left it on a bench outside the library while I went inside to look. When I returned, it had turned into a bag of kids clothes.......what do I need kids clothes for?". "I haven't seen my kids in years!", she stated. "That must be hard", I returned.
"I am very sorry", I told her, "But you are going to have to leave.".
"Ok, whatever.", she said angrily. Then she stopped and looked me in the eyes. "If anyone asks, my name is Mrs. Gordon!".
"Goodbye Mrs. Gordon" I yelled as she walked down the hill, waving her arms and yelling to the wind.
It is sad to see the homeless that we have out there and even sadder to see a woman in that state. There is only so much that one can do however. I have seen Mrs Gordon once since that incident. She was down on the south side of town close to where the old truck stop used to be.
I thought of all of the characters that I had met in my years at the truck stop. I remember thinking that that part of my life was probably over when I moved the diner to it's present position. I smiled inside as I realized that part of my life will never be over.
PS.....Speaking of characters, last evening, I stopped in the diner. The entry way was full of bags as COVO is closed for the weekend. I had the dishwasher help me pack them in the back of my car to get them out of the way and I came in for some supper. The server told me that I needed to check out one of the booths before I left. I looked over a saw a small family. Father, Mother, and child. Except that the father was wearing a dress. He had ear rings in his ears. He had shaved his legs and had nylons on. And.....his purse sat in front of the booth by his feet.
I caught the cook looking over at him. "I bet you think he is cute.", I laughed. "Whatever!", he grumbled as he went back to work on his grill.