Genio and I are a team.
I support him in the housing program at St. John Center and he is my pastry chef.
When I first started visiting Genio in his home, I noticed with a bit of impatience that he was always ready to eat a meal when I got there. Ever the gentleman, he always offered me a bite to eat — a breaded pork chop with gravy, some sauteed chicken breast, a bit of pot roast. For months I waved him off saying I had just eaten breakfast. We had a lot of work to do – paperwork, and assessments and other important projects. Like Mary Poppins on steroids — “Spit Spot!” — I could not understand why he was always eating a big meal in the middle of the morning.
Then one sunny spring day I stopped in for our monthly meeting and there on the kitchen table was a homemade cherry cheesecake. Genio offered me a piece and I caved. I could not resist. He brought out a plate and a fork and scooped me up a generous serving. I dug in. The cheesecake was rich and creamy with just the right balance between the brown sugar sweetness and the tart pop of the cherries. The graham cracker crust was baked to a golden brown and rich with real butter. I practically elevated upward toward the ceiling as I savored every bite.
And then it hit me.
For all these many months Genio had been cooking those wonderful midmorning meals for me, not for himself.
Cooking and serving me a meal or a piece of cake is his way of showing appreciation for our partnership. We do make a good team. We’re both fun-loving and talkative. We kid each other and laugh a lot when we’re together. When Genio cracks open his smart phone like opening the hood of a tractor I shake my head and say, “What am I going to do with you?”
Genio was hospitalized at Christmas for a stroke that affected his speech and vision. On rounds he introduced me to his medical team, saying, “She’s my translator.” He counts on me to make sure the doctors and nurses break things down so he understands what they are saying and can make informed decisions.
Genio is back home now after his stroke. He goes to his therapy sessions twice a week and also follows up with the doctor who gave him his pacemaker. We had some fun taping a short video in which Genio tells his audience how to bake the fabulous cherry cheesecake. By now you’ve guessed what we’ll call it: “Genio’s Cooking Show: The Cherry Cheese Cake Episode.”
Whit Stodghill is a case manager in St. John Center’s Permanent Supportive Housing. In her work, she provides case management to 18 of the 92 formerly homeless men who are part of the program. She visits them at home, helps with tasks, supports them in their goals, and advocates for them when they need her to.