Photograph by Macaulay Lerman
Audio by Vermont Folklife
1. "I come here five days a week and eat breakfast..." (1:27)
My name is James. I am 57 years old and I am currently, you know, I live downtown on Church Street. And I pretty much, I come here five days a week and eat breakfast. I love the atmosphere. Also, I have ties to this neighborhood. When my parents moved here from Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina--my dad was an Army UVM ROTC instructor and he was stationed at Camp Johnson, and my parents bought a house at 262 North on Winooski Avenue. So nine months after my parents moved here I was born, and I had, I already have, an older brother and then my three sisters are all older than me. And so this is, I feel like this is my neighborhood. I grew up on this street for the first two years of my life. And then after my father was killed in Vietnam, September 21st, my mother moved, in December of '66, moved the family around the corner to 123 Archibald Street. So literally, I lived the first two years of my life on this street, and I remember it. And then I spent the next 18 years on Archibald Street, and then I went into the United States Air Force in 1985 when I was 20.
2. "This place right here saved a person’s life. And I’m going to tell you how." (6:41)
So, Abby, I'll bring up Abby. This is the this is the experience that I really want to bring home. And this is the one that just ties everything together here. This shows--this place right here saved a person's life. And I'm going to tell you how, and I'll tell you why.
So, my younger brother's name is John. He spent the last five years living in Phoenix. January 3rd, he felt sluggish. He went into a Phoenix hospital and the doctor said, "Mr. Hines," he said, "you know, your...you've only got six months to a year to live. You have congestive heart failure." My brother, like, started crying and was like, "What the heck? I mean, I feel sluggish, but now you're telling me--." For a 55 year old male, the doctor told him his heart should be working at a 65 to 80%. His was working at a 15%. Yeah. 15%. So the doctor said, "you got six months to a year." So I called John up in Phoenix and I said, I said, "John, what about a pacemaker?" That wasn't even on the table. It wasn't even mentioned.
So, some things happened between January and May, which is John had, you know, he got out of the hospital after a month. And then some, we’ll just say some things happened at home. May rolls around he's in, John's in the hospital and just feeling horrible knowing that you know he's probably going to die in a month. So I said, "Listen, John," I said, "I'm going to find out how much it is for a ticket and have you just come home and die with me? Just come here to Church Street and live with me." And that was the plan, he was going to come home and die.
So then, I'm not--my smart phone, like, I'm not really good at it. And I don't really know how to work it out so that I could get a bus ticket for my brother to be on the Greyhound. I mean, he was struggling, the way he was explaining to me on the phone. He said that his legs were full of fluid. He said he was struggling to make it to the bathroom. So how was he going to get from there to like a Greyhound bus terminal and then take a bus to Burlington, you know? So, I come to the food shelf and I lay all this on Abbey, and I tell Abbey this whole situation. And I said, "Abbey," I said, "I've got, you know, $500 in my checking account. I want to spend whatever it takes to get my little brother John--you know, he's my baby brother he's the baby of the family--to get him a bus ticket." So, I want to say the date was I just remember, it was a Wednesday like this. And it would have been like the last Wednesday in May. I'm pretty sure that's what it was. I came here. Told Abby what I just told you. So Abby went on the computer over there in the room, in the dining room, and found the bus ticket for him to leave on Friday. And that's when we ended up, I end up purchasing with my debit card. The ticket was $493.99.
So Abby talked to John and they made these arrangements. And I'm sitting here listening, you know. And John had mentioned he had a caseworker and the caseworker had ended up packing him, like, oranges, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bagels for the trip. Abby told him where the Greyhound bus station was going to be. You know, she gave the address because she was looking on a computer. The other thing, which I really love. Abby had told me, she's like "James," she's like, "I'm going to give you $50 to send to him in case he wants to buy food," because Abby has looked on the computer and said it was a four hour bus--four day, not four hour--four day bus ride from Phoenix to Burlington.
John set out on his trip. He made it here. My sister Janice picked him up on Main and Saint Paul. I remember that night. I remember it was the first Monday in June. I'll never forget it. And I just, I saw him, I just remember, like, I cried because I saw him and he just--his legs were full of fluid, because he didn't look nothing like when I saw him five and a half years earlier. The next day she drove him around, like to the Economic Services building so you can get an EBT card, food stamps and anything else that he could get, any kind of services. Janice was noticing that he was, that he was like, just, you know, not feeling well. So she said, "John," now this is Tuesday, the day after he had just gotten here that night. She goes, "I'm going to bring you to the hospital tomorrow morning at 8:00," because she told him, she's like, "I'm taking you.".
So, at 6:00 that Wednesday morning, now John had not even been in Burlington for eight hours, he's going, "James. I just called 911." He's like, "I'm going to go up to the hospital. I can't wait." So then he calls me several hours later. He'd been at the hospital up there for like four or five hours. And he called me up that Wednesday is around 11:00. And he says he goes, "You know what?" He goes, "you were right about the pacemaker," he goes.
This is the weirdest thing. This is this is like I feel like God, this is God's work. The guy, the doctor at Fletcher Allen did his internship at the hospital in Phoenix. And made the comment that, you know, "They're not really good at studying the heart there. And, you know, they should have given you a pacemaker." He's like, "We're going to give you one." So his surgery was, like, a few days later. I remember it got postponed--it was supposed to be like following Monday. They ended up giving it to him on a Wednesday. And that was two months ago. And he walks from Church and King, where I live, to here every morning to eat breakfast. And I made a note, I made a point to introduce him to Abbey. And whenever I leave every morning when I when Abby's working, I always give her a hug. And I tell her that I love her. I said, "You saved my brother's life." She's like, "Well, thank you. Thank you." You know, she's really gracious. She's always kind. And John, I make sure he gives her a hug, too.