My parents have a neighbor. Several, obviously, but one in particular. I'll call him Bob. Bob lives a few doors down in one of the 2-family flats. These are huge flats--my parents took a 2-family and converted it to a 1-family that has over 3500 square feet. The first floor is a two bedroom with a living room, kitchen, dining room; upstairs has the same floor plan plus two more bedrooms on the third floor. Why I'm detailing this I don't know...anyway, Bob lives in one of the first floor flats down the way.
Bob has always been a little odd. He's been to block parties and my parents' Christmas party one year, I think two years ago. Obviously socially...odd...one of those types that with proper attention and charity could make it, but would require constant safety nets to get by (like, if he had a competent sibling who owned the house he lived in, that sort of safety net--someone to dot all the i's and pay all the overdue bills). Last summer, he had no electricity because he refused to pay the bill. He ran an extension cord from the basement (landlord's electric bill) for months. Just for instance. The year he came to my parents' party, he got so so drunk my dad and my uncle Joe had to help him to his feet and walk/drag him home.
This past summer, with no electric, he gathered maple seeds from my parents' street tree, a silver maple, you know, the kind NOBODY WANTS? The drop-limbs-on-your-car and rot from the inside out tree? He planted them in a cardboard box and raised silver maple seedlings. Had a cardboard sign on the front porch: Trees for sale. By that point, he admitted to my mother that he was out of work.
He came over to use my parents' phone at one point, because his phone was out because, let me tell you what you already know: the phone company makes people--with no problems getting by at all--absolutely crazy, so you can imagine what it would do to someone with trouble. While he was there, he gave my mom his phone number just in case, and she gave him hers. Neighborly thing to do. And she never heard from him until last week.
He needed to use a typewriter to fill out a job application. My mom told him (honestly) that they didn't have a working typewriter at that point, I mean, her turquoise Smith-Corona from 1965 hasn't had a new ribbon since....the mid 80s? She then did not mention the fact that they did have word processing software on their computer. "I just, I envisioned sitting upstairs with him for 3 hours while he tried to figure out how to do everything, the Me and Bob Show, and I just couldn't." She used to do this for folks where she worked--she has long worked in fields of helping people learn life skills to pass classes/get jobs. So she suggested the library as his next phone call.
Between that call and the next, she realized that the new phone she got for Christmas (whee, I say!) had caller ID. She knows when I call now, for instance. Dang it. My sister-in-law is probably in more trouble, though...anyway, the phone rang yesterday from a 913 area code listed as some sort of marketing company. Now, if I saw that, I wouldn't pick up. Really. But she did. It was Bob. Right off the bat, he gets to the point:
"Can I borrow 500 dollars?"
She explained that they really didn't have that kind of cash just lying around, that it was right after the new year, after Christmas, that this sort of thing wasn't right at her fingertips. She asked him what he needed 500 dollars for.
"Oh, I have some house repairs to do, some things around the house, and it would be nice to put some food on the shelf again."
She suggested he try my parish's food pantry--he lives in the parish and he's never been to our St. Vincent de Paul, he obviously has some kind of need in that department, he would have easy proof of address (and lack of income, I would think). And then she went down to the front hall--my parents ask for donations to St. VdP at Pius for their party, instead of getting a bunch of wine and cheese baskets as hostess gifts. They usually fill two or three laundry baskets full and we bring it up to the parish in January. She hasn't turned the stuff over to me yet, and so she went through it to find the most convenient of foods, things like canned soup, as well as a few things on the "almost perishable" list like crackers and bread-like things. Dropped it off at Bob's today. They had a short conversation about some shell casings he'd found in his front yard and how he thought they were involved in a shooting in the apartment upstairs last week.
Huh. She kind of backs her way out of this conversation (although later considers the stupid St. Louis tradition of shooting guns in the air on New Year's Eve and thinks perhaps that was the cause instead of some kind of armed assault).
I had no advice for her. I have no idea how I would handle someone like Bob. I almost feel like he needs some kind of mentor, someone to show him how to do the things he needs to do to get by. But it's not just cluelessness, and it's not a developmental disability. It seems to fall pretty close to mental illness, the way he gets ahead for a short time and then resorts to selling weed trees on his front porch. I mean, someone with Asperger's Syndrome, someone with brain damage or an IQ that places them in a category where they can probably live on their own with assistance, that's not him. It's stranger than that. On the other hand, he doesn't seem at all dangerous. I just don't know.
But I will admit he's pretty brave to call my parents and ask for 500 dollars. I can't imagine one of my siblings or myself even doing something like that, just coming right out and saying it. I'd dance around it a few days first, at least. Drop some hints. Get a feel for the answer. Of course, you never know till you try...Mom...I was thinking....