Thursdays are my day to leave work early and spend the afternoon with T. This being a particularly pleasant Thursday, I picked him up from preschool and we headed to the tourist district along the waterfront.
T. enjoys these outings. They give him a chance to meet his public. We forgo the stroller so he can better interact with the world and passersby who gawk with adoration. He is that cute.
As we walked along the sunny side of the street a woman asked for spare change. My usual response is a shrug, but I reached into my pants retrieving a few quarters that escaped the parking meter.
I expected a thank you or some word about bus fare as I handed the woman the change. What came from her mouth was wholly unexpected.
“Is his name T.?”
“What?” I replied, taken aback.
“Is his name T.?”
“How do you know him?” I asked.
“I’m friends with his mother,” she answered with what I interpreted was a deprecating chuckle. She then looked at him, staring at her. “You don’t remember me, do you?”
That T. does not remember this woman, or the role her friend played in his life, is something my wife and I are thankful for each and every day.
I did not want to engage the panhandler any further and left unsaid that she does not, in fact, know his mother.
For nearly a year, my wife and I have fed him, clothed him, fought with school administrators, stayed up all night when he was sick and brought him to the hospital when his fever spiked and breathing became labored.
We have delighted and fretted over his development.
It was another foster parent – not the panhandler’s friend – who did these things for more than a year before he came into our lives.
The panhandler knew all these things. She must have witnessed some of what happened to him that forced the state to take custody of an infant barely a year old.
I took T.’s hand and walked away, saying nothing.
“You’re doing a wonderful job,” she said before scanning the sidewalk for another mark.