He is 95. He doesn’t look a day older than 70. I adore him. I am almost obsessed with him.
When he says he’ll root for my horse in the Derby, I know he will. When he says he will take the “lunch,” I know he won’t eat it. When he says, “I have to go…now,” I get it. I so get it.
My new guy has been here three months. I’ve been here two. Well, not here-here two months, actually two weeks. Might as well have been two months. Might as well have been three years for him.
I am a fish completely out of water here. But unlike being that fish in SoFla, Colorado makes it easy to find your current, to swim and float, almost without a care.
I don’t get the weather. I am learning that 75 today means 35 tomorrow, and don’t be surprised if there is snow on your windshield, but it’ll be gone by noon. I don’t get the traffic, but I know it’s better than the 24-7 rush hour on 95 South. I didn’t realize how few closed-toed shoes I owned. Or sweaters. Or everything else one needs for that still-undefined concept of “layers.”
I don’t get my skin and the wrinkles and folds I never knew I had. Turns out I live in a desert surrounded by snow-capped mountains. But, wow, are they beautiful, around every turn. The mountains, not my wrinkles.
“You really think its good?” he asks.
“I know it is,” I smile at him. Everything at this place is first class. The food, the caring workers, the residents.
“Okay, then. If you say so, I’ll take your word,” he grins. I love him.
He doesn’t eat a bit. He pushes his food around for the minimal amount of time, then attempts to move his wheelchair through the throng of three others in his way.
“You hated the lunch,” I tell him as I ask Grace if I can push her chair in just a bit to allow my new guy through.
“No, not at all!” he says.
“You lie,” I say.
“I lie,” he says.
“Really?” I ask.
He stares at me for the briefest of seconds, willing me to get him.
“Really not hungry,” he responds.
“Okay,” I say, willing him to get that I get him. That I get that he is not like the others, so much older though he is than them.
I am lost everywhere I go, not able to get my bearings.
“Just look for the mountains, you know, west,” laugh my kind coworkers, who chain smoke cigarettes and God knows what else here in legal green Colorado. Okay. Except I am used to looking east toward the ocean.
Geez, I miss that ocean, even if I never sat but a couple of times a year on its soft sandy beach.
But then it’s Easter. And I deliver baskets early to my daughter’s doorstep, which is easy to do, because she and her roommate live mere twelve steps above me. I make a lamb dinner; we play Monopoly. I pinch myself just to feel the joy of finally spending a holiday with my best baby girl. After all those vacant SoFla years.
“The lunch looked good,” he says. “I thought I was hungrier than I was.”
“You lie?” I ask him.
“Only a little,” he winks.
Because he doesn’t get having to sit next to those who can’t walk, or speak, or hear as well as he can, even though he is ten years their senior.
My marketing job is going well, but it’s only part time. I had to get something else, and I couldn’t stomach another restaurant. So, I took what I was begged to take, given, “You are so over qualified.”
I took it because I could walk there. I took it with an hourly and no tips. I took it because I think I have something to learn there.
I took it because I could find it, you know, by looking West. Where the sun sets.