He’s a crotchety 74 year old man with a genuine heart for others. He’s opinionated to a fault and complains loudly and often. His big black hiking boots clunk loudly across the hardwood floor and up the creaky stairs. If he comes in late at night, you’ll be sure to wake up as he steps his way up to the loft on the third floor. Clunk, clunk, clunk. The boots are from Walmart, cheap mock leather pieces that have a hole split in the vinyl where the boot bends when he takes each step. His jeans are also from Walmart, a stone wash style that hasn’t changed in the past decade. They’re all around too big for him, and he cinches them tight around his relatively thin waste with an equally cheap black belt. His shirts are nothing special, but nothing horrid either. Right now I can’t even think of what they tend to look like. T-shirts maybe?
His hair is rarely done. He only takes the time to comb it when there’s an event to attend or when he’s going to church. Funnily enough, he doesn’t change his clothes for church, just his hair. His right hand is in a permanent brace. He was in an accident and fell on ice a number of years ago. The doctor set it improperly and actually caused more damage to his wrist. He’ll never have use of that hand again. The nails on that hand grown long. The other day I offered to trim them for him. This was a bit self serving, as they were starting to make me uncomfortable. The long, streaky, yellow nails just looked dirty– as if the nicotine from the cigarettes he consumes each day was making itself into the nails on his hand. Oddly enough, it’s not the hand he uses to hold the cigarettes that he smokes down at the end of the block, attempting to keep the smoke from wafting into our home. Due to the lack of use in his right hand he always has at least a 5’o clock shadow, if not a full on grey beard. It makes him look like a backwoods man. The slight hunch in his back makes him look like a tired old man, someone who has seen too much of life. That may be accurate.
All this being said, he loves to talk with you, and takes a genuine interest in your life. For all that he grumbles, he also listens. And if you suggest and activity or outing, you can be sure he’ll partake. Whether it’s taking the dog down to the lake for a walk, or taking in a movie at the cheap theatre, he’s always up for an adventure. He’s a little lonely, having no immediate family, even though he lives in a community made up of 16 other people. He is the only senior, and I think it might be a tough place to be. All the younger people are constantly running around, busy with their lives, and his life is slowly winding down. Maybe that’s why for the past year and a half he’s been planning a trip to New Zealand that he never winds up taking. Maybe he views it as his own way of keeping busy, moving life forward.
Most days you can expect to find him finger typing at his laptop in the black chair in the living room that sits across from the TV. Often, if he thinks he’s the only one home, he’ll talk to the dog, asking her questions. Then, when he gets no response, he’ll repeat the question multiple times. Dogs may be great companions, but they never seem to speak English.
He has definite ideas about the way the community should be run. He has definite opinions about people within the community. He has definite opinions about politics. If it is possible for him to have an opinion on a topic, he will. That being said, he’ll be the first to offer to take you to Timmy’s for a coffee, or to help you with the dishes. He may not be able to wash, but he’s figured out how to dry and put away. While he doesn’t outdo himself in serving the community, he has his niche– taking out the trash, compost, and recycling; cooking spaghetti or the occasional roast (the last one was overcooked and there are still leftovers in the fridge a week later); or drying and putting away the dishes. These things make him feel valued, don’t try to take them away from him.
He’s a cheapskate too. If you can’t tell it by his clothing, you can tell when he splurges on a meal. He buys pot roast, potatoes and vegetables. A meal isn’t a meal without meat. But the real splurge is that $20 bottle of wine he bought. No, it’s not your standard 750ml bottle. It’s a magnum wine bottle holding 1.5 L. A true splurge on wine if there ever was one! But that being said, he’s got a good heart, even if there is a tight hold on the wallet. One can’t help but wonder if it’s not a product of his generation? It’s a generation that has known times of want, and so have held tightly to the little they have. At the same time, it’s a generation that can be generous when it wants to. In some ways, they’re far ahead of the 20-something generation of today which has lots and has forgotten how to be generous. But I digress.
This crotchety old man is part of the community for better or worse. I’ve seen both sides and can tell you this thing. Without him, the community dynamics would be different and we’d be missing an integral member. Endearing or aggravating, he has a place in the community.