Jenny and Dave


Jenny


Vesta and I met Jenny a couple years ago parked in front of the Goodwill. She seemed unable or unwilling to get out of her car, which was a Nineteen Nineties Something SUV, which had been in an accident.

The car had been the sum total of her husband’s estate and it was all she had. She was hanging with a wheelchair bound man, named Dave, who had headphones on, but listened to no music. They’d come up from Sacramento to visit friends, who they were unable to find and now they were temporarily stranded in Reno. 

They did not ask us for money, but they graciously accepted a six pack of Corona the next day, which I brought along with a pack of Marlboro, because she’d giving me her last smoke.

Her husband had been a vet and she was too and she said in about a week, she’d be getting her check and then she’d have enough money to pay the deductible and get her car fixed (because she doubted the kid who’d hit her was going to pay) and they’d head on back to SAC. I didn’t ask, but I assume it was some kind of military retirement deal. Both she and her music loving friend were content in the Goodwill parking lot till then as they had everything they needed.

We stopped by another time to chat with them and I found out her name was Jenny. When we came by a week later, they were gone.

These were nice people, who’d fallen on hard times due to the bottle. However, she did say they did not drink and drive and I believe that to be true, because if it were not, they’d’ve been caught long ago and her car would have been taken away.

They seemed like happy people, who harmed no one. They told us the police had been by, but after they’d explained their story to them, they’d left. I gotta say here, I think we got pretty good cops in both Reno and Sparks.

I’ve often wondered about her, how she could be so upbeat in the face of her circumstances, but she was. And when I have a crappy day, I think of her and her smile and then I smile too.

Below is what I wrote the day we met Jenny:

Her home was destroyed. She has no money. She owns nothing. Yet she gave me her last cigarette.

She has a broken arm and her teeth have been knocked out. Skin cancer is eating her face away and she needs to get to the VA. Yes, she’s been in the military. She’s served her country.

Her home is her car, which is a late 90’s, Red Dodge SUV, which had been her dead husband’s pride and joy. In it she could move around. But two days ago a kid ran into it in the Goodwill parking lot. The passenger door no longer opens, the left fender has been caved in. The left headlight is gone. The car no longer runs.

The kid told her not to worry and he called his dad instead of the cops. His dad came and reassured her that everything was going to be all right. That he’d come back and get her car fixed. He told her to sit tight.

She’s still waiting, but by now she knows he’s not coming back.

She was sitting in the passenger side of her broken car and she saw me looking at the pack of cigarettes on her dash.

“Would you like one?” she said.

“I don’t smoke that much, but I’d dearly love one,” I said.

She reached for the pack, opened it, offered it. “Enjoy.”

“I can’t take your last smoke.” There was only one left.

“Life is about sharing.” She smiled. “I share what I have.”

And I smoked that cigarette, because not to would have been to insult her. She has great dignity, this woman. And though pride is often misplaced, she has some and wears it well.

Vesta and I are going back to see her this evening, if she’s still there, because I didn’t get her name and I want to know her name. Plus, I owe her a cigarette.


Dave 001


And then there is Jenny’s earphone wearing friend Dave and this is what I wrote about him when we first met:

This is Dave. He lives on the streets. He’s got no home, no money. He takes a fist full of pills every day that he gets from the VA for his heart, has had at least one, maybe more, small heart attacks.

He lives in a wheelchair, because he can’t use his legs. They don’t work anymore. He’s got headphones on, but I didn’t see a walkman or an MP3 player of any kind.

Dave was rescued from a nursing home by friends and he’d rather live on the streets than live there and take the drugs they were forcing on him. “You know, the kind that make you not who you are,” Dave says.

Vesta took this photo as I was talking to him. You can see in his eyes, that he’s beginning to tear up. A few seconds after this photo was taken, he started to cry and Vesta put away her camera.

He said it’s a shame someone who’s served his country honorably has to live like this. "There is no help anymore. Obama and Romney and the parties they represent, they are all liars,” Dave says. “Let them come out here and see what it’s like. Let them see how I live.”

Ken Douglas Wedding and Portrait Photography, 1250 Ralston Street, Reno, NV 89503 
Phone: 775 393-9529