There is a man who lives in our neighborhood who had a stroke. I don’t know when he had it, but he did. I see him all the time. I’m not exactly sure where he lives, but it’s close, and we live near a dog park. This old man likes to walk down to the entrance to the dog park, and to say hi to people. He shuffles behind his wheel chair, using that as a walker, with his patient white fluffy dog on a leash attached to the wheel chair, and slowly but surely gets to his destination. The dog park has a steep slope heading down into it, so he doesn’t actually enter the dog park, more like just sets up shop at the entrance and says hi to people.
Like most stroke victims, half of his body is paralyzed. I’m not sure if that’s permanent or temporary, so he uses his good hand to wave and says hi out of the good side of his mouth. When I walk by, I always go up and say hey back, matching his enthusiasm. He’s so happy to say hi to people. I usually go into the park for about an hour, and he’s often times there on the way in and on the way out. That patient dog just sits and waits by the side of the old man, watching dog after dog file into the park to go have the time of their lives, and then dog after dog drag themselves out of the park, exhausted and content. If dogs talk to each other, that white dog probably says “Hi” too, with the same joy hiding what I suspect is sadness and envy directed towards the other dogs.
I saw this old man today. He was parked at a crowded corner to just wave and say Hi. I was running some errands, and honked to him on the way there and the way back. He recognized me and gave me a bigger half-smile than everyone else.
I’m writing about this old man because I am this old man. I’ve had a stroke. Part of me is paralyzed. And I’m sitting on a corner, waving to everyone that goes by, hoping for a smile in return, writing this blog and checking for comments and stats and @replies and any shred of recognition in this unfriendly, paralyzed world.
There’s part of me that feels a tremendous amount of pity for this old man. How could you not. He’s paralyzed. He had a fucking stroke. He can’t even walk into a goddamn dog park, he just sits on the corner and is a personal greeting party for every stranger that goes by. I suspect that he does out it of loneliness, feeling that he has no one to wave hi to except for strangers. Of course I feel pity. It is sad and it is pathetic. Just like I feel pity for myself.
The other part of me think that this old man is noble. He is dignified. Life fucked him upside the head and he sits there and smiles about it, waving at everyone that passes him by. He lives despite his suffering, probably even lives because of his suffering. He greets the pain and the limp arm and the distorted face by using what he has left and giving the world a hug. And there’s part of me that thinks that I am noble, bearing this burden with unfaltering commitment to my marriage and to my optimism in our future together.
Suffering is pathetic, and suffering is noble. It turns us into phoenixes by burning us alive, and then restores us to our glory.
But only if we smile and wave as it devours us whole.
The lost child
Crying, crying but still
Catching the fireflies.