I spent a day in Waco, TX recently. It was hot. 108 degrees hot. Usually Waco is muggy and miserable with a dripping-wet, humid heat. This time it was a dry heat that I could almost enjoy. I baked. I won't tell the locals I actually enjoyed the frying-on-the-pavement feeling it provided.
I went to Waco for a day to see an old friend. I hadn't seen this friend in seven years, though innumberable phone conversations have kept us connected. When I last saw him he was homeless, 59 years old & cancer free. Now, he's off the streets and in a house he shares with an El Salvadorian, taco making couple, old enough to draw social security checks and riddled with bone and prostate cancer.
He's in it for the fight, though. He always has been.
"He" is Joe Lightfoot Gonzales, the Native American / Hispanic man that has filled so much of the last 12 years of my life. Recently, however, we've learned 'Joe' isn't his real name. It was simply the name given to him by his siblings since he was immediately tossed into the foster system and never had a present mother. His real name, recently acquired to get social security and Medicade, is free of a prison record; something 'Joe Lightfoot Gonzales' can't necessarily boast.
Our reunion is made with my mother-in-law present. He attempts to impress / scare her by saying, "Oh, you lived in north Dallas? Yeah, I used to run over there. I huslted a lot of rich white folk over there. Made a lot of dough."
I call his bluff and we burst into laughter.
"Oh, I've missed you girl. I'd take a bullet for you."
We go to his chemotherapy appointment. He talks too loudly in the waiting room and he tells me how nothing else matters now but getting right with God, makes duplicitous and incorrect political statements and asks how my family is. We read the newspaper. They call us into the office to check vitals and time has marched on: seven years flashed before me as Joe sits there weakly.
I've missed you too, Joe. I've missed you, too.