His back to the brick wall of the convenience store. It was 8:00 a.m., and already the Texas sun promised more heat than anyone ought to have to endure.
He was impossibly thin, and perhaps younger than he looked. It was hard to tell. A life on the streets ages a person inside and out.
His right wrist still bore the unmistakable badge of one who’s recently been in close contact with people in lab coats, carrying charts, mumbling things about “medication” and “disorders”.
I’d seen that badge before, on my own father some five years earlier when he was convinced we were all on a ship bound for Germany to fight the Nazis with swords.
We were in an emergency room at the local veteran’s hospital, and Daddy was talking to the resident psychologist.
I stared at the mans’ wrist as he waved his arms about. His words, nonsensical to most, floated across the heated air to me.
“..and then he says he’ll be right back..well, he never came back…”
Other commuters, hurrying along to work, to school, to their lives, got out of their cars and some stared at him. Some ignored him, and some walked around him, giving him a wide berth as they did so.
He is homeless, outcast, somehow frightening to them.
I was like them, until Daddy’s descent into Alzheimer’s taught me that minds are trapped in myriad ways for those who seem to live out of phase with the rest of the world, and we cannot know the why just by looking.
I smiled, not at him, but for him. He grinned, toothless, in return. His bright blue eyes so reminiscent of my Daddy’s. I felt the tears and hurried along inside the store.
When I came back out, he was still there. He was still carrying on a conversation with the invisible denizens of his little world.
As I passed, he called out to me..”Miss? Oh miss?”
I stopped, inadvertently stiffening for the moment, and turned to face him.
“You have yourself a blessed day now, you hear?” He said, as lucid in that moment as he was uncomprehending in the next when I said, “Thank you, sir, and you as well.” and he looked at me as if seeing me for the first time.
I got back to my car, and slid inside the cool air-conditioned space.
The tears flowed, hot and freely, down my cheeks again.
I miss you, Daddy.
There’s a deep well inside me and from it springs my skewed outlook on pretty much everything.
It’s not a bottomless well, and sometimes the rope to the bucket breaks and I can’t bring up anything at all.
Other times, there’s so much in the bucket I have to force myself to relax, slow down and organize things into something that may entertain a few of you.
By far, the greatest contributor to my well is my life experiences.
Good, bad and indifferent.
I have to say, though, that the bad experiences seem to provide me with the best source material. Humor is a great buffering agent.
To that end, I present Daddy.
He has Alzheimer’s.
It’s not pretty.
But, sometimes it’s damned funny. Especially since he has really lost the ability to communicate verbally. Oh sure, his sentence may start out with “Today, we had…” but most of the time it ends with “….verbloggle fish toasted narfles” leaving me to wonder if he had fish, toast, narfles or verbloggle for lunch.
Like I said, it’s funny sometimes.
Other times, not so much.
He’s in a secured unit in a nursing home, since he’s given to walkabouts that may, or may not, include clothing, shoes, money or any idea who he is or where he is going.
I go vist him every chance I get, and he seems to understand we are connected somehow.
He’s just not sure how.
I visited him the other day, and most of what he said made no sense whatsoever.
Except when I got ready to leave.
I sat across from him and took both of his hands in mine.
“I have to go now, Daddy.”
“Yes, but I will be back soon.”
“Where you goin’?”
“Well, back to work and then home.”
“When are you coming back?”
“Soon, Daddy, soon.”
I leaned in and hugged him.
“I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you too, baby.”
Tears well, heart breaks and I leave as quickly as I can.
It’s the moments of clarity that steal a little of my soul.