His eyes were the bluest blue, his face frostbitten red. He lives in the woods with his buddy Paul who he met about three months ago. They’re doing okay he says; they have a little propane stove to cook on and a propane tank for heat. Quite comfy, actually, The trek into town is a little bit of challenge in this arctic weather. They used to live behind Meijer but they ran them off..which sucks because they bought all their groceries there.. but someone in management threatened Paul and he just couldn’t be comfortable there anymore. Before that, someplace else, but the cops made them leave. It’s hard, moving all the time, but there aren’t too many choices. He says “I’m an alcoholic, you know, they won’t let me stay at the mission”. Two DUI ..lost his license .. can’t afford to pay lawyers to get it back. Can’t keep a job without transportation.
We sat and shared a coffee waiting for a friend to get off work at Speedway. I learned that he has two kids, a boy and girl, and a granddaughter in her teens. I told him I live in the woods by Fennville but own the woods that I live in. He said that his ex-wife lives out this way; she’s the reason he is back in Michigan. Apparently she was attacked by a boyfriend, hospitalized, and his son called him out in Washington. He thought he had better call his dad as the attack was national news. He said that it’s hard to not care after you’ve spent 40 years with someone. 25 years they were married; 15 after that they tried to work it out. So he quit his job and came back to Michigan thinking he would take care of her – and the guy who did this. He stayed with his son for a while but can’t go back ..burnt one too many bridges and the daughter in law doesn’t want him around. Understandable he says.
We talk about the property, how much land, he says. I tell him about my husband.. the cancer ..my job. He reeks of alcohol.
I look into his eyes .. beautiful blue eyes.. his wind whipped face.. and it takes me back to Kalamazoo.. falling asleep in the softly falling snow, not wanting to move.. it was so cold it had gotten comfortable. I’d have been happy to die there. Chris was on the phone .. calling my family.. friends.. someone to come get me. It’s surreal to think, to recall, that long forgotten memory.
I wonder, as I walk away, why did God put him in my path? Waiting together in the checkout line he reminded me of an old friend. Smaller than me, sort of hefty. My brother. My friend.
We enjoyed our coffee and conversation, time spent together. Hugged when we parted ways. It truly was a pleasure to meet him. I envy his freedom. And yes.. I know it’s crazy.. but I hope to see him again.