In order to understand this post, you have to go back and read how I met the Man on the Corner. Take your time... I'll wait:
The Man on the Corner
OK, you back? Good.
So, I wrote that back in November of 2009. It must have been a warm November; otherwise he would have never been sitting on that corner. At Christmastime of that year, I put a container of cookies and a card on his doorstep. I didn't see him at all for many months, but he would call every few weeks (usually on a Tuesday when his wife was at exercise class) just to see how I was doing.
Last summer, my walking schedule and his sitting on the corner schedule never seemed to mesh. Every time I walked by his house I thought of knocking on his door, but didn't want to wake him, or worse yet, have his wife answer and wonder who the hell this "young" woman was at her door asking for her husband. Finally, after I returned from a trip to South Dakota, I called him and set up a time to go over and visit to show him my pictures.
It took him awhile to answer the door. I almost thought he had forgotten about my visit; then I saw as he shuffled back to his chair that it must have taken all his energy to get to the door. He sat down and told me he had something for me, and handed me a keychain. "It's a dreamcatcher," he said. "It'll catch all your good dreams and make the bad ones go away." Then he showed me a photocopy of a series of newspaper articles listing his name - turns out he was QUITE the golfer in his day. He then shared some photos that were taken a few years ago on a golf course - obviously pre-stroke. He looked feeble holding a golf club, but also happier than I had ever seen him.
He wanted to show me around his house. He struggled to get up, but seemed determined. After a series of tries, I told him, "You know, if I help you up, no one will know but me." He seemed OK with that, and I helped him up and he gave me the tour. He sleeps in a separate bedroom than his wife now; a twin bed full of all the gadgets he needs close by. Adorning his walls were hunting and golf photos - obviously passions whose days were long gone.
Since that visit over the summer I have not seen him. We still talk occasionally, and I delivered bread and candies at Christmastime. I got a call from him on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve.
After missing two of his calls, I dialed him up last week. His wife answered. I asked for him and she said, "Can I tell him who's calling?" I'm thinking, "Oh, God. I'm so busted." I said, "Amy, the one who leaves treats on the porch." Her tone completely changed. "Oh, AMY!" she said. "I've been meaning to email you! I want to make sure Jim thanked you for those delicious treats!" "Yes," I said, "he did." Eventually the conversation turned to the inevitable - basically, "Sooooo, how do you know my husband?" I regurgitated the story and she seemed a bit skeptical. So I told her, "You know, I'm just calling to tell him that I'm getting married." With that, she seemed to relax. "He's sleeping, but I'll wake him up," she said. "No, no," I insisted. "Don't wake him up." She then preceded to tell me that he wasn't doing well. He thought he had had another stroke and was not getting around and forgetting things. The news made my heart drop. "Have him call me soon, and I'll come over and we can all chat," I said.
A few days later I got a sweet message from Jim. His voice sounded more feeble than I remembered. Here's what he said: "Amy! It's Wheelchair Jim. Betty told me the good news. I'm sorry it's not me, but that's life. I'll be waiting for an invitation to the wedding. I can't walk there, but I'll get there somehow. Call you some other time. Bye, now."
I don't think Jim will be AT my wedding, but I sure hope that I'll be able to share my pictures with him. I think about him almost every day, and wonder how he is - not only health wise, but how he feels day to day, looking back on his life, knowing that the number of days left on this earth are much less than the number of days he's spent here.
I should visit him more; and I know that will be one of my biggest regrets. Talking to him reminds me of how much life is to be appreciated, valued and celebrated, because it won't always be THIS GOOD. Looking at my dreamcatcher - in a special place on my desk - makes me realize that life is going to be full of good things and bad, but in the end it's the good things we reflect on and the bad is swept away. So take lots of pictures, make lots of memories, and take lots of notes. When you're old and gray, you just might happen upon someone who wants to hear all about them.