Just as I was leaving the office today I got an emergency call from my friend Rainee Osman. "Watch King 5 news tonight. I don't have time to explain," she said. "I'll call you tomorrow."
Rainee and her husband Bruce are my favorite Real Change vendor hopeless-case-gone-good story. They started selling the paper in the mid-nineties. Both were heroin addicts. Rainee has dealt with chronic pain her entire life, and graduated at some point from prescription pain-killers to the stuff you could buy on the street.
Heroin addiction is never a great lifestyle choice. When I met them, they were homeless, but selling the paper gave them some dignity back and offered Rainee an alternative to working in strip clubs. They stuck with it for years.
Over that time, I saw them try to get clean and fail often enough to lose count. This had to have been really hard for them, because it was hard for me just to watch. They were good people who were struggling with addiction. They taught me that we are always more than the sum of our problems.
They had a baby while they were still addicted, and were fortunate enough to be able to keep her in the family. Chandler was raised on a ranch in Montana by Rainee's parents — a salt of the earth couple named Larry and Carol — until she was three. Their beautiful daughter was the inspiration Bruce and Rainee needed to finally kick for good.
In 2002, Chandler came home to live with mom and dad. Bruce and Rainee still come in every once in awhile to say hi. Last Christmas, Rainee dropped off two handmade embroidered jeans jackets she had made. Chandler had outgrown them, and Rainee wanted my girls to have them. I was very, very touched by the gesture.
They have a normal life and live in Kent. They are the sort of people you might bowl with, or meet at a little league game. Typical working parents, trying to make ends meet like everybody else.
Both Rainee and Bruce have medical marijuana prescriptions for active Hepatitis C and other disabling pain issues. A few years ago, there was a problem around this that could have led to the loss of their housing and daughter, but the courts ruled in their favor.
Tonights' News on King 5 story was about tragedy compounded by pure meanness.
Rainee's parents were visiting, and Chandler was up near Snoqualmie Pass with Grandpa when their truck broke down. Larry was crushed to death as he futzed around with the trailer hitch. Chandler sat in the cab of the truck, unaware of what had happened, with the cel phone she had been handed. After a while she called mom to report that Grandpa never came back.
The State Troopers brought her home. On the way, there was an interrogation. Eight-year-old Chandler revealed that mom and dad grow marijuana.
It's all too easy to see how this happened. The call comes in to the Troopers. Bruce and Rainee's records come up. There are several hours alone with the kid in the car without a lawyer. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
The troopers busted in, violently cuffed Bruce and Rainee, and viciously trashed their home. They weren't interested in the doctor's authorization. Their lawyer says the seizure of the plants, the entry without a warrant, and the ransacking of the home were all illegal.
Mom, dad, and Chandler are all back home, putting the pieces back together and coping with their loss. Rainee came home today to find a business card from Child Protective Services stuck in the door.
Chalk up another "win" for the war on drugs. I feel so much safer. Don't you?