Monday, May 19, 2014
“You know,” said Oscar, with trembling lips. The old man then lost his thoughts. He did not speak, —speak, he blurted out, as often he did, unrecognizable words, when there wasn’t much to say. I don’t think he intended to that it should happen, but unless I had something more to say, he didn’t really speak, it was a mumble unto himself. Of course we would never have become friends had he not spoke.
He was eighty-six years old, in 1981, I was thirty-six, and by the end of fall I would have written my first book, “The Other Door” and Oscar would be in the book, at least by name, so he did inspire me.
Anyhow, sometimes when I visited Oscar at the Old Folks Farm, I wanted to say: “Oscar, in the name of goodness, what are you babbling about,” on my semiweekly visits, but I never did for that full summer of 1981.
He was always a little bewildered why I just happened to come by, all of a sudden one day, alone one day, spot him sitting on the wooden bench, out in front of the Old Folks Farm, off White Bear Avenue, then once spotted, to approach him, introducing myself to him, and that was that. Oscar was bewildered, but he left well enough alone, he liked the company, and the conversation, and the Ice Cream I brought him. Plus I never did answer him that question.
No, I never told him, I don’t think to; that was thirty-three years ago, now I’m the old man.
It was an assignment I was working on my Master’s Degree, and he was part of my assignment, that was my motivation in meeting him.
We got to know each other pretty well, and we laughed with incredulous pleasure.
As I said, he didn’t speak much or ask silly questions, I suppose he was found of me, so he said. I was surprised I too, care for him as much as I did.
A few times that summer he said, “I was expecting you to come visit, and I waited until dark, but you never came.” When he told me that I went coldly silent; knowing my assignment was over, I did not make visiting him a priority anymore. But for some odd reason I just had to come back.
“Forgive me,” I rejoined. “I’ve been pretty busy.”
His children never came to visit him, not once to my knowledge. I was the only one. And I thought it better not to tell him about the assignment, it would hurt him, and I doubt it mattered all that much. Actually I somewhat regretting the assignment was over.
He had, and he knew this, nothing to offer but old age, some roughness a little coarseness, in exchange for an hour’s chitchat, weekly or semiweekly; nor did he have any wealth, actually he was penniless, not even enough money for an ice-cream cone. I gave him a few dollars once, and he had one of the cleaning crew boys go down and pick him up some ice-cream, so he mentioned it to me in passing. Of course his poverty, was not his fault—he was among the majority of old folks back then; he inevitable had lived, I told myself.
At the end of summer, I went back after a month’s absence, I suppose we were really into fall. He wasn’t outside. I somewhat shuddered and clung close to the wooden bench he always sat on. I had thought this might happen and it was a terrible day for me, it sickened me to think he had passed on, dreadful. There was something in me, in him that I never knew until then. I never thought to care so much for a passing stranger, perhaps he thought the same way too.
Date Written: 5-18-2014 (No: 1063)