Monday I breezed in to find my friend cheery and vibrant. Shortly after I arrived he received a phone call from a childhood friend and though I left the room to give him privacy, it didn’t matter because I don’t speak his native tongue. From the kitchen I could hear him; his voice clear and bubbling with joy at reminiscing and catching up. `I wondered at the simple marvel of a voice on the end of the line, the guffaws at inside jokes from so many years. He is in his eighties and I doubt email or texting would bring the same rush of emotion.
His good mood carried through the day. He broke out in exuberant, long streams of conversation in a language I don’t speak. We sat and worked on a jig saw puzzle. He pointed and exclaimed happily, directing me toward pieces. I smiled and said, “English?” It is easy to fall back into the language of childhood. Perhaps some might think age leads him to forget to speak English, I know it is simply that the words are more natural in his first, beautiful language.
The next day was quieter. He was tired and struggling with discomfort. We have our routines but they are flexible enough to slow things down. At one point he uncharacteristically grumped at me. His wife laughed over the intercom, translating for me. Much of the morning he slept. Just before noon, I heard him waking, quietly calling to me. “Are you feeling better?” I asked. “So la la…” was his reply. He sat with me in the kitchen as I cooked. The birds were flocking to the feeder and the sun was warm so I opened the door. Wrapped in a blanket with his hat and mittens he seemed calm and content. I took a break to make him a snack and sat on the stool beside him. Lovingly, he reached over and patted my shoulder. Smiling and looking deep into my eyes, he gently said something. I grinned and reminded him, “English, please?”
“I said, you are blocking my view.”
Nathan Bennett, Patina painting on Bronze – A Wonderfull (sic) Rainy Day ’06