Yesterday evening, Big Red and I were comfortably settled in on the big brown couch in the family room, watching something mindless on TV. The doorbell rang. We both looked at each other. We both hate answering the door to solicitors. We both have very different approaches. I politely, but quickly, cut off whatever the solicitor is trying to sell and close the door. Big Red, on the other hand, will listen to their entire speech and often give them something or apologize profusely for not being interested, only after wishing them luck.
The doorbell rang. We both looked at each other. I said you're the man of the house, you have to answer the door and protect me. You know, just in case it was a bad guy. But why would a bad guy ring the doorbell? I don't know - I've seen stuff on TV. Let's leave it at that.
He went upstairs, opened the door, and I heard the muffled voice of a woman. Big Red came back downstairs looking for his shoes. At the door had been the next door neighbor's daughter. She's often over visiting her parents, our neighbors. The daughter is grown, and her parents are an elderly couple. Her father has spinal stenosis, a condition where the spinal column narrows putting pressure on the spinal cord. Among other things, walking can become difficult. Apparently, the old man had fallen, and the daughter and mother could not pick him up. They needed Big Red's help. And help, Big Red did.
When he came back he described what he had encountered. The old man was trying to get to the bathroom and had slipped on the linoleum floor. When Big Red approached the old man, he greeted him and said that he was there to help. The daughter introduced him to her father as well. Big Red reports that the man was very grateful and said so. After lifting his featherweight frail body back onto the bed, the old man's wife asked Big Red what they owed him. Aghast, Big Red replied nothing. He let them know that if they ever needed anything else not to hesitate to knock.
Aside from the fact that Big Red did not hesitate to help once again reaffirmed what an incredible guy he is, I was struck by how sad I felt for the old man. No doubt, at one point in time, he was strong and sturdy - the Man of the house. And now here he was reduced to waiting for a neighbor to come help him up off the floor. Was he secretly pissed that he was stuck there on the ground, or was he past the pissed point and just happy there was someone willing and available to help? All I could picture was a helpless man, and wonder how hard this was for him. What happens to us as we become more dependent on others? As babies and children we are not necessarily aware of our own abilities, or what we're capable of doing. As adults, we know full-well what we can accomplish. How hard is that to rely on others for something so seemingly simple as walking to the bathroom - knowing that for most of our lives this was a task we independently managed?
I can't imagine seeing Big Red incapacitated or unable to function. He's strong. He remodels kitchens and finishes basements. He rides a motorcycle and restores old cars. He's Big Red. I hope that both Big Red and I are able to age with dignity. I hope that we are both able to take what comes to us in stride and with grace. And should we need some help, there's someone home next door.