it was spontaneous.
i looked thru the new cards i had gotten in.
i had ordered one of the sea with him in mind.
i saw it in the stack, pulled it out and started writing him a note.
i'd pop it in the mail tomorrow and let him know i was thinking of him.
had just signed the note when i found myself reaching for the phone to call him.
in the middle of a a million things, i rarely get near the phone.
but this just happened.
when he answered, i understood why.
he sounded terrible.
turns out he had fallen last week.
blacked out and fell in his apartment.
had been there a few hours (hours?!!) before he woke up again.
yes, he'd been to the doctor.
and yes, he'd fill me in on what they said.
and as i listened i heard something in his voice that was new to me.
fiercely independent, it's been ridiculous what he's handled all alone.
and yet, there it was - vulnerability.
i thought of his rough childhood, the abusive parents,
the being left in a home for kids when there wasn't enough money to take
care of him. and yet his sister stayed home.
a small, homely boy left in a kids home.
thought of how he toughed his way thru that and landed in the merchant marines.
'spent his life in a boiler room' was what his nephew had told me.
crusty old man.
independent old man.
vulnerable old man.
there was no turning down offers of help this time. he was open to them.
wanted them. needed them.
when he described passing out and waking up later he told me how he opened
his eyes, found himself on the floor and thought 'you're not young anymore.'
i closed my eyes on this end of the phone and held that.
'that musta been hard. how'd it feel?' i asked.
'scary.' he answered.
and he meant it.
and he told me he now understands what's ahead of him and he's scared.
again, i closed my eyes and held that.
crusty old independent man who's been thru so much.
vulnerable and afraid.
i stole the moment to tell him i loved him.
i heard myself say it.
gentle and real i wanted him to know.
i wanted him to know he mattered to someone.
it hung there. in the air.
between the phones.
i could feel it.
there was a pause.
i could almost feel him closing his eyes.
his voice changed and he told me how much that meant.
and then......true to that crazy old man's completely surprising nature,
he launched into shakespeare.
he does this.
he quotes shakespeare to me.
and not just a line.
and not just any paragraphs.
but the most beautiful, sensitive, loving paragraphs.
this crusty man.
this 'nobody's child' man who cusses and talks so sharply,
who repeats the same stories over and over when he's got a million
amazing ones locked inside of him.
the man who you think never loved who carries around a picture of
a woman from over fifty years ago.
i wonder what his life has been about.
if he's glad he's lived it.
if he's glad he's still here.
i know he's tried to end it before.
and he's said he's glad that didn't work out.
that he wants to be here.
what is he looking back at and regretting?
what is he looking back at and cherishing?
has he ever really felt love?
and what are we here to give each other besides love?
abuse. abandonment. neglect. loneliness.
he's tasted that all.
and under all of that -
a man who will stun you with his knowledge of history.
a man who will soften your heart with his words from shakespeare.
a man who can talk literature and politics.
a man i'm lucky enough to be able to tell i love and actually have it matter.
yeah, i think it's a gift that i can love him.
i think that matters to him and is a gift i can offer.
but i think the bigger gift is exactly that -
it matters to him.
and that is such a gift to me.
he reminds me to live.
he reminds me to love.
he's on my mind and in my heart this morning.