Norm was a “regular” in our emergency department for many years. He was recently found down on the sidewalk in front of a liquor store and couldn’t be resuscitated.
Hearing he was dead reminded me of an interaction I had with him years ago.
Before our kids were in school, Shari volunteered for the local food bank. Every Wednesday, she and the kids delivered bags of donated groceries to shut-in elderly people in need. When my schedule allowed, I went with them. One day, as we made our deliveries, we ran into Norm. He provided my young children with an insight into life that they never would have had in our home.
We pulled our Camry up in front of the next house on our delivery route. It was in an older area of town with rundown businesses next to old houses inhabited by a less fortunate swath of society.
Following their normal pattern, Shari and the kids grabbed the bag of groceries and went to the door. While I waited for them, I looked over and was somewhat surprised to see Norm sitting on the ground leaning up against the building. He was drinking with another man I didn’t recognize.
We happened to have an extra bag of groceries so I called out to Norm, addressing him by name. He got up and staggered over to the car. He stuck his head through my open window and leaned his forearms on the door. He was not at all threatening, but he pressed a bit too far into my personal space and forced me to lean back farther in my seat.
It was about then that Shari and the kids returned from making their delivery. Their conversation stopped and they, somewhat warily, climbed back in the car. The kids listened quietly and watched closely as their dad had a conversation with a dirty, scroungy, drunk man.
I offered Norm the bag of free groceries. He declined it. Then hit me up for money. I told him I was really glad to give him food but that I would not give him money because I knew he would use it to buy booze. That irritated him, so I started the car and told him we were leaving.
As we pulled away, the silence in the car broke. My kids were amazed that I knew Norm and could even call him by name. They wanted to know what he and his companion were doing there on the street. They were surprised he had no interest in food. Our son asked why his hands were so swollen.
I was able to explain that Norm drank too much alcohol. I pointed out other ways he looked and acted differently than people they were used to seeing. It painted a pretty graphic picture that I think was a good lesson for my kids.
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