Last night on my way home from a family party, around ten or so, I saw someone on the side of the road as I came around a corner. It was dark, and there was a decent amount of traffic, thanks to the Cinco De Mayo crowds. As I slowed, I saw suspenders and an ancient frame hobbling next to the road. The person walking along the road was an 85 year old man. The guy in front of me slowed and tried to talk to the old guy, but was quickly waved on. I instantly knew the old man, not literally, but he was someone's PawPaw. I rolled my window down, and told him he needed to get in because it was me or the cops. I spent some time helping the elderly a few years ago, and I learned a lot about when your mind starts to slip. I didn't know what his situation was, but was sure he didn't need to be walking along the road at 10pm. I was a little more than firm and told him to get in the car. To my surprise, he conceded.
I wasn't far from my house, and so headed that direction while starting to talk to him. He introduced himself in a deep southern voice, but that old southern drawl, like Savannah. Mr.Russel had gotten in a fight with his son. He told me that he is 85, but he isn't dead yet. We talked for awhile and then I went in to try to figure out what to do. He was pretty veament about not going home. I knew, like most of my guy friends, when he calmed down, he would see there weren't many options. He said he wanted to go to a hotel, and pulled a wad of money out of his pocket. Thank God I picked him up, I thought. How dangerous is that, a freaking old man with a wad of cash just toddling about? He wanted to go to a hotel, but I also knew that wasn't a safe option, so I just kept him talking as we headed to a gas station.
He insisted on giving me money for gas. So, I took his 25$ inside and put ten in the tank, got him some water and fruit, and then headed back out to the car. Once I put gas in I got back in the car. There was a cop parked across the way, and I considered pawning the guy off on him. Letting him deal with it in whatever way procedure dictated. It would certainly be easier than trying to talk Mr. Russel into going home. But, if it was my PawPaw, I wouldn't do that. So, I listened.
Mr.Russel told me about his life. He had been married a few times, and had a lot of regrets. He talked about his money ... about how much he had given people and how little they care. He talked about his heart and his kidneys failing and about how none of it mattered. In a weird way, it was like seeing one of my 20 year old friends talk about stuff. I listened ... as he told me about his son. As I looked at the old man, frail and shaky, he looked very well kept. His hair was clean and his beard was close shaved. He had clean clothes, nice pants, and money in his pocket. Someone obviously cared about this man. He just wanted someone to hear him ... to talk to him like a human.
He talked about his last wife, and how he loved her. He told me she was a good woman like me, that they used to ride motorcycles across the country. She died 17 years ago. He told me about trips they took and his favorite things. When he got quiet again, I told him about my life.
I told him about my dad leaving when I was one, about my Momma who raised me to be kind and value people over money, about my little brother who has seizures and the biggest heart in the world, about my step-dad who tried to kill us and now has a whole song about him, about the Indian Reservation, about losing my Grandpa in 2007, about my struggles with addiction, about the boys who came and went, about my business and my mission, and about buying my first home. He smiled as he listened, just the biggest grin. Maybe because he had forgotten more things than I have even been through. He patted my arm and said thank you.
I dropped him off at home, and came back to my house. What a strange interaction.