“Let’s go get a Tropical Snow!” I declared. Yes, declared – I would not take no for an answer.
My brother and dad agreed happily, however, and we gathered enough change and started out on the walk across town. My dad tried to hide his limp, but he was still recovering from knee surgery. The walk was good exercise for him, but he has never been good at not being able to move at his own speed. Dad walked to my right, Leland strutted to my left. Where did he learn to do that? Actually, maybe dad had passed on the strut; maybe that is why he limped now. Leland had his strut.

Anyway, we walked and talked and laughed. Down the hill, left, around the curve, right. I grew up in this town and knew who lived in every other house. “Do the Solberg’s still live there?” I would ask sometimes, or “When was this house built?” We approached the nursing home on our right, where we had done all of our trick-or-treating when we were younger. It was safe and we got a lot of candy and now I know that it had to be a highlight for the folks who live there, seeing all those kids happy and seeing families and in a town as small as Alcester everyone knows everyone. It’s funny – it wasn’t until I went to Hawarden to trick-or-treat with Jenny in fourth grade that I realized people actually go to different houses (as opposed to everyone just getting candy from the nursing home).

As we cut across the yard in our pursuit for Tropical Snowcones, my brother, dad and I simultaneously caught the same thing out of the corner of our eyes. A little old woman sat inside the nursing home, staring out the window, solitary and small. She perked slightly at the sight of us, the three of us looking at her and she looking back at us.

It was an insanely intimate moment; as if we were in her room and we were awkward and yet welcomed. I think I stopped, and so did Leland, and then my dad did, a staring contest with the old woman, stiff and alone.

“Wave at her,” my dad said gently, and like lovely, cuddly robotic stuffed animals we did. We waved, and she didn’t smile with her lips but her body did. She stiffly waved back. That moment was nailing it with your boyfriend on Christmas – you got him exactly what he wanted! That moment was bringing home a perfect report card after your parents had to ask your teacher to move you to the other side of the room (away from your friends) because you were doing poorly. The moment was going to All-State speech and a tearful hug from your grandma on graduation day and saying I love you for the first time. I loved that we saw that old woman that day and my heart is a little cracked that I don’t spend more time with the people that I will someday be neighbors with.

We all end up getting old, if we live to age. Some of us will end up with families and some of us will be alright by ourselves. But some of us, no matter how well we do in life, will end up in a community home with other old people who can’t do it themselves, and with very few companions other than the roommate you might get stuck with and the nurses. I think I want to get more comfortable with older people and maybe spend more time with them. But I don’t know if I will, or if I can, get comfortable all alone.

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