Friday, March 7, 2008

Cancer Man

The old guy doesn't always know what to say to me. His eyes have been out of commission for a while and they're not coming back. He can't see me. That makes it hard for him to know who I am. He knows me only by my voice, by the strength of my hands which help him out of the car and by the grubby scent of my car, which is getting bad.

The kids have used it like a trash can. If it were possible for rats to burrow through the underside, I'd have a problem. I promised I'd clean it... really clean it and get whatever has been dumped and left to dry out of the upholstery.

We don't really know each other very well. He knows less about me than I do about him. We've talked some about our families. I know he has a pair of children and a few grand kids. I gave him the carefully constructed version of how I ended up with five children, two of which are now above 18. It confuses him a little because the gap in our ages is close to half a century. He does the math and it baffles him. We talk about our families, the weather and the state of the roads.

He hates the roads in Charleston.

Riding blind is hard. You can't brace yourself for the small potholes and uneven patches you drive over. It's uncomfortable and startling.

"They're taking two dollars out of your check a week," he complained. "I thought they were supposed to be fixing the roads with that money."

News to me. I heard the city was installing video cameras and probably hiring someone in spandex and a cape to fight crime. I don't tell him this. At 80-something, he probably wouldn't get it.

He complains about the length of the ride every time. It probably seems like forever between points. Invariably, I forget to unlock his seat belt or unlock the belt, but neglect to unlock the back door where his wife hammers on the glass with her palms like a toddler asking for the chocolate bar hidden in the groceries.

I'm careful helping him out. I drive a compact car. Getting out is tricky for people with all of their senses working properly. He's come within an inch of gouging his cheek on the door or thumping his smooth head against the ceiling. We come too close too often, but so far, he doesn't have any interesting new wounds to show the people at church.

"You're a good," he fumbled for the right word, "man, Bill. You're a good man."

For a second there, he was going to call me "kid."


moneytastesbad said...

Bill, you are a good man.

I never fail to be impressed with your selflessness.

If Karma is real, you got a lot coming to ya.

primalscreamx said...

Well, I haven't cleaned my car yet. I can't be that great. Anybody know how to get cooked milk out of the backseat... damned kids.