Pulling into the parking lot, I was careful not to occupy a space for which I was not entitled. Really bugs me to see an ignored “Handicap Only” sign, especially when the offender is young and full of beans.
Picking my way across the icy patches and up the front steps of the assisted living/nursing home, I was reminded that some of us aren’t as spry as we used to be. Some of us can’t afford to stumble.
Navigating the corridors, past the open doors—faces lighting up with expectation of a family visitor, others darkened and drawn by too many disappointments.
“Good afternoon,” I say to a passing nurse.
“Good afternoon,” is the cheerful reply.
An attendant asks a resident seated in a wheelchair, “May I push?”
“Yes, you may,” is the soft and appreciative reply. And down the hallway they go, stopping at an apartment.
“Here you are!”
I hear the act of kindness, then move on to find Mr. Lot Richart Henry’s door, and I knock.
“Come in,” his sturdy voice resonates.
Mr. Henry lives alone in a two-room apartment.
He’s 90 years old.
Seated in his favorite chair, he’s wearing a dress shirt and neatly knotted tie. He’s waiting for me. We’d agreed I would come after he’d finished his lunch. Cole slaw and green beans are two of his favorite dishes.
We shake hands, as is the custom upon arriving and departing, a closure statement of trust. The reason for our new friendship: the sharing of bygone names and places in the little community where we spent our childhoods.
“Named for the doctor who delivered me.”
“Lot is your first name?”
“Biblical. Went to a carnival once. Fortuneteller said she’d bet a dollar she could tell me my name. Said ‘Concentrate on your name.’ I concentrated on ‘Richart’ because that’s what everybody called me. Most said ‘Richard,’ and I wouldn’t care. Figured I’d won an easy dollar from this fortuneteller.
“She rubbed her hands all over this big crystal ball and finally she said, ‘I’m not getting anything. Are you sure you’re concentrating on your first name?’”
Richart switched to his first name “Lot,” same as Abraham’s nephew.
“She rubbed her hands over that crystal ball, then pointed her finger at me and said, ‘Lot. Your name is Lot!’”
Lot Richart Henry and I had a real good laugh, and we both felt better. We fell right into the time the man was murdered on a certain road because he had insulted somebody, to the man who would grab your ears and nearly twist them off, to that first chew of tobacco, to the young lady who “is still beautiful,” to 15-cents-a-gallon gasoline, to teachers coming and going.
“I set a trap for rabbits and one time on my way to school I reached in and pulled out a polecat. Well, I turned loose of him as fast as I could, but by the time I’d taken my seat in the schoolhouse the teacher said, ‘Somebody in here’s got skunk on ’em. Who is it?’
“I raised my hand. She said, ‘Well, of all people.’ So, I got up and walked out.”
We had ourselves another good laugh. We took up the fine art of hoboing, regrettable dove hunts on baited fields, shooting squirrels, the interurban to Lexington, being right-handed but always putting on the left shoe first, not living with your children when you get to be 90, learning how not to eat too much.
“Push back,” said Abraham’s nephew. “No second helpings and don’t make the first one too big. It’s all in your head.”
I said I’d give it a try.
I arose to leave, we shook hands, and I realized how fortunate I was.
I could walk.
Lot Richart Henry can stand and ease himself into his motorized wheelchair. That’s all.
“See you next time!” we promised.