I woke up early one Saturday with all the intentions of going down in to the city to take some photos. I don't like the city, or the crowds they bring, but I felt like I needed to go in and check out the places downtown to see what kind of photos I could take that aren't revolving around the country and the animals.
I am very partial to the park we have downtown, and all the beauty it has in it. I never used to be, but the more I look at it and take photos of it, the more beautiful it becomes. I had been in the park about three hours that Saturday, and was getting ready to take a walk to somewhere else, on my way to cross the street from the park to the city streets to go observe other things.
On my way to the crosswalk area I noticed a man sitting in the grass under a tree. Not unusual, since the park is a home to many homeless, and this situation seemed no different than any other, except for this particular man had what looked like all of his belongings with him. When I say that, I mean all the belongings that might come out of someone who had a permanent residence in a room somewhere. (TV, clothes, personal belongings, a walker, wall hangings etc.)
No one seemed to notice how unusual this was and everyone was walking past him as if he was just another homeless man on the street. The problem was, the tree he was sitting under was on the side of the road right next to the busy street, and among all the other unusual things, it just didn't seem normal, or safe.
I walked up to the man and as he spoke to me, I decided to let a conversation start to see what was going on. He invited me to sit down and chat with him, as if no one else really takes the time to do that, and he would welcome somebody paying attention to him, so I sat down with my camera and started listening to the gentleman talk.
He was a story teller, and proceeded for the next hour and a half or so, to tell me stories of his life. He was a Vietnam veteran who had what I would consider a very hard life. Some of it sounded like he enjoyed portions of it, as any one does when they are young and full of life, but many of the stories took turns that weren't real inviting. One of the things I noticed as he told his stories was the struggle he was having to tell them. He would start, and then forget what he was talking about, and would ask me to "ask a question" so that he could remember where it was he left off. That was one of the things, among everything else, that got me to thinking that he really wasn't supposed to be here, but I couldn't figure out where it was he was supposed to be. My first thought was "dementia" because he could tell the stories, he just couldn't keep them all in line.
Some of the stories talked about his life in Montana where I'm from, so based on that, I paid more attention to the stories he was telling in regards to that interest, to see if I could get something out of him that told me he had family and a life elsewhere. When I reached a point of figuring out a little bit more, I asked him if he remembered his sister's phone number, which he did. Then I asked him what her name was and I wrote the information down and then told him I needed to get going, because I was wanting to go take photos elsewhere.
Before I left though, I tried to get a knife to help him cut the apples that he had with him so that he could eat something, and then decided that he needed more than just apples to eat, so I asked him if he was hungry and would like a hot dog. He was very eager with that idea, so I went and got him a hot dog to eat. He was very proud of being a "veteran" so he let me take some pictures of him and his flag, and the "hot dog" which he was very excited about having at that moment.
Once we got past that point, I made a point of needing to go, so that I could go make a call to see if his family would know what was going on with him, and why he was down in the park with all of his stuff. I called his sister and no one picked up so I started to leave a message, which must have gotten the sisters attention, because once she heard the story, she immediately grabbed the phone. Her reception wasn't what I thought it would be, but none the less, it was someone who knew him and could hopefully help remove him from this situation. (I was really worried about the "street savvy" homeless, who might take his stuff or hurt him, for no other reason than to do just that and nothing more.) I explained to her who I was and why I was calling her, but her reception was more or less, "what is he up to now", and "he must not be on his "medication"", to be out and about like that. She said he got in lots of trouble when he wasn't on his "med's" and has been in and out of problems and hospitals for years. That didn't surprise me, because a lot of Vietnam Vet's are in that same boat, and he seemed no different. However, I told her he hadn't been a problem and that we were having a wonderful time chatting, I just didn't think it was safe to leave him out on the street like this, especially when it could get dangerous as the hours move on from daytime to night, and I didn't want to see him down there any longer than possible.
TO BE CONTINUED WHEN I HAVE A FEW MORE MINUTES TO WRITE-