Karah was glad her father was finally coming home, but Ben had to be sold on the idea. They’d only been married for a bit over ten years, and Karah’s father, Grady, had been missing for nearly twenty-five, so Ben had never met him. Until recently, they’d resigned themselves to the possibility that he was dead.
Ben knew of Grady’s struggles with mental illness and drug addiction, having learned all about it a few weeks ago when Grady had suffered a coronary experience and was checked into San Francisco General.
His health had been in decline for years, and hitting street drugs like crack and a few other illicit substances certainly hadn’t helped him, instead being the likely culprits exacerbating his condition.
Grady had been homeless for years, in and out of shelters and jail, doing a little time here and there for possession, then often kicked out because they needed space for harder felons. His only vice had been drug use, otherwise, he was sweet as pie and often just thought of as a “happy, crazy old man.”
He asked to see a social worker while in the hospital, and Jackie responded. They couldn’t have sent a more caring person; she was always willing to go the extra mile, especially if someone wore years of street life on their face, like Grady did, and seemed half out of their mind, like him.
He mumbled a lot and had a hard time sticking to one subject but, when Jackie asked him if he had any family, he mentioned his daughter, Karah, and said she lived in San Antonio.
Jackie told him of a program in San Francisco, that would get a person home to a loved one on a Greyhound bus if the loved one were expecting them and willing to meet them at the station and provide lodging.
“Grady,” she asked, with all the tenderness she could muster, “would you like me to contact your daughter and see if she’d be willing to take you in?”
This had kind of blindsided him. He’d asked for a social worker to at least get some new clothes, and possibly look into some kind of housing program because his medical trauma got him to thinking maybe it was time to get off the street. He knew they’d require that he clean up his act, and he felt he might just be able to do that, if he had something to clean up for.
Grady gazed off to the side, thinking long and hard. “I think she still in San Antonio, but I aint talk with her in years, she probably think I’m dead! You scare da hell outta her, lady, you go calling her up sayin’ I wanna come home!”
Jackie smiled and took his hand. “Grady, I bet that if she does think you’re… gone… well, then she’ll be quite relieved to hear you’re very much alive, especially after a close-call like you just had. This was a very mild heart-attack but I’m afraid you won’t be able to survive the street environment much longer. How about I see what I can do?”
“What if you can’t find her?”
“No guarantees, but I’ll certainly do my best.”
Grady grew very solemn and said in a hushed voice, “So what if she don’t want me after all I done? I run out on her when she was little, leaving her with her momma, and I ain’t looked back since. Thought about her a lot, but I left her in good hands, while I was just a stinkin’ drunk, her mom and I used to do nuthin’ but fight.”
He paused, the weight on his soul was crushing him.
“I mean, what if you… find her, and… you know…”
Jackie squeezed his hand a little harder. “Then we’ll know for sure. Wouldn’t you at least like to try and find out?”
He grinned, showing the four scraggly teeth he had left after tussling with such a hardscrabble life for so many years.
“Yeah, I guess so. There anything I need to do?”
“Just try to give me as much about her as you can remember, and I’ll do all the work. I’ll let you know as soon as I find anything, so I’m giving you a mobile phone for that reason.
An associate of mine will visit you before you’re released and he’ll have a fully charged mobile, he’ll put you on a mobile plan, give you your assigned number, and you’ll be good to go.”
“And that gonna cost me nuthin’?”
Jackie smiled and laughed. “Of course not, this is to help you! I’ll have your number, so be sure and answer when I call. If you don’t hear from me in a few days, I’m giving you my number so you can check in with me, sound good?”
Grady rubbed his eyes; he didn’t want Jackie to notice a few tears welling up.
“Got sumpin’ in my eye, ma’am, sorry…”
Jackie reassured him it was okay and, it was only after she’d left the room, Grady broke down and sobbed. He was glad his roommate, whoever it was over there behind the bed curtain, seemed to be asleep, and he hoped a nurse wouldn’t walk in within the next few minutes.
It felt good to get it out, so he spent the rest of the night in tears of grief and relief, which he found to be a very odd mix.
Upon his discharge the following afternoon, with new phone in hand and a fresh set of clothes, he put grief behind him and hoped for the best.
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