One of the things I like best about my mom is her abiltiy to make friends with anyone. She never seemed to have that part in her personality… how to explain… that part that tells us, this person is too high class or low class, or too smart, too stupid, not enough like her… Whatever.
She just never felt uncomfortable talking to people and within 30 seconds she could find something she and any other person had a common interest in.
She was especially gifted with loners. Often my mom was their only friend. She met a lot of them through her work at the movie theater. Many times they needed a ride home. Sometimes she would bring them over to visit and we’d all gather around the kitchen table and talk away half the night.
One of these guys, Roscoe (name changed to protect his identity) was a bit slow. He’d been raised under horrible circumstances. Maybe not really raised at all. He was horribly poor and couldn’t work because he was just that slow. He had a pure heart and was brave. He didn’t know he was slow, I don’t think. If he was upset about the way things were, he’d call the all the way up to the White House to voice his complaint. I’m not kidding.
A lot of our table talks included Roscoe’s tales of his calls about some injustice he saw in society and how he did something about it. How he believed he made a difference. His walking adventures were amazing, too. The absurd situations this guy would find himself in and how he got out of them were the most outrageous tales. True stories, as Roscoe didn’t know how to tell lies, much less keep up with them.
He was a thoughtful person. One time my mom was telling him about how she wished she had one of those things you plug into an outlet that turns it into three outlets. (Not an extension cord, I can’t think of the name of this thing right now). This was twenty years ago. Anyway, years go by. They lose contact.
One day, out of the blue, Roscoe shows up at her door with blistered and bloody feet, carrying a suitcase. His skull was bandaged and he had a wad of gauze on his ear. There he was, with an enormous smile of accomplishment as he produced for her, one of those wall outlet things.
He said he’d just gotten out of the hospital, well, it had been days, but it was a long and twisted journey. A week or so earlier, he’d rode a Greyhound bus to New Orleans Charity Hospital (3 hour drive) for surgery on his ear.
Upon his release from the hospital, a stranger offered him a ride back home. So Roscoe gets in the car and about an hour into the drive, the driver pulls over, steals his money and his shoes and leaves him on the side of the road with his suitcase.
Turns out the guy drove him an hour in the wrong direction. So now Roscoe was in another state with no money and no shoes.
He walked all day and that first night he found an abandoned train station to sleep. When he stretched out on a bench, he noticed the wall outlet thing. He grabbed it for my mom and said he didn’t think it was stealing because this was an abandoned building.
I don’t know how many days it took him to walk home. He tried to hitchhike, but not a single person stopped to pick him up. I guess him having his head all bandaged like that and not wearing shoes had a little to do with it.
When he got back into town, he didn’t go straight home, he walked all the way to my mom’s first. Just to give her that thing he finally found for her.
As much as this guy had been let down in life by others, by society, he never lost his ability to put others before himself. Even in desperate times.
A few years later, Roscoe was jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. He spent five years behind bars for that. When he got out, he made his whacky calls and ended up with a huge settlement for wrongful imprisonment. Enough to live out the rest of his life on his own land, in his own house with the option to go to right there to the hospital in his own town.