I tried to treat Eddie to food and gifts, but he graciously resisted. I was obsessed with caretaking; he was dutifully self-sufficient.
It embarrassed me to realize how little he needed to be happy: his dog, a good book, a clean pillow, an uneventful evening. That forced me to examine my own distinctions between luxury and comfort. He was a minimalist; my life was cluttered with things.
He didn't beg or panhandle, but strangers were drawn into his orbit. After my column, several readers shared stories about how his life had touched theirs — like USC law student Nataline Viray-Fung, whose weekly chats with the homeless man were a settling force.
"I was always so anxious," she told me. "And he was always so calm."
We stayed in touch when he went back to Austin. His calls would make my day. "It's your Texas Cowboy," he'd say, and we'd laugh. He called me his angel.
It didn't seem to matter to his family and friends why Eddie had dropped off the map. They embraced him with joy and gratitude, not questions or resentment.
Even his children didn't need answers. They always knew their father loved them; that was enough, they said.
He'd been a hands-on dad when they were young, always willing to listen, encourage and offer advice to them and all their friends. Looking back, they credit his lessons for their current success.
"All the stuff he preached to us growing up, about respecting yourself, loving your neighbor," his son, Tre, said. "That's instilled in me."
Eddie was thrilled when his daughter Ericka flew to Los Angeles to see him after my column ran. She persuaded him to ride the train with her to visit family in Austin. I agreed to keep his dog until he came back.
Three months later, I flew to Texas to deliver the dog and check out his new life. Eddie was living in a condo, driving a Lexus and basking in the love of family and friends who were delighted that "Junior" was back.
He hadn't changed, they said, from the humble young man who'd been voted "Most Ideal" by his high school's senior class. "Good begets good," his best friend told me. "God has his hands on Eddie."
That's the thought that comforts me now. Godspeed, my Texas Cowboy. From your California Angel.