31 March 2010

My Old Man

I have always called him "Tricky Dick" because of the time I caught him stealing my dry erase marker and he claimed that it, in fact, did belong to him, but that he would give it to me as a gift. Everyone else simply called him "The Old Man". Once in a while, I would call him "My Old Man"; his usual streetname with a posessive paternal spin. I love him.

I saw him in my office. We talked about his favorite Biblical passages and his favorite sacreligious interpretations of them. We called his siblings who lived in far away cities and looked up pictures of their hometowns on Google Images so he could imagine where they were. We talked about how the police always picked on him because he was missing a few toes from the war and consequently always walked like he was drunk, and then the irony of the fact that he really was always drunk.

I saw him outside of my office. He liked to use this old broomstick to hit on fenceposts and to pretend to cut down trees. He was really going at it on a sapling in front of the bank, so I sat him down and gave him some iced tea and told him to give the trees a rest for the sake of preserving the earth for my future offspring.

Someone left a message for him on our universal message line that his brother had died. I was nominated to take the old man into my office and tell him, because we realized he had no one else here to tell him. We talked about his brother, we called his sister, and called his sister again. We looked up pictures of where his brother used to live, so he could imagine where his brother's body would rest.

And then Tricky Dick didn't come back for a long time. I thought about him, and about him thinking about his brother. I thought of him pretending to cut down trees somewhere as an attempt to ease his broken heart. I we were weeding out old mail one day, mail we would have to return to sender because it had not been claimed, and I found a letter sent to him by his sister. I kept it in my desk, in my top drawer, for months and months hoping that he would come back and that I could give it to him and that it would give him some hope. Yesterday, he did.

As usual, there were a million things going on, and I was in the midst of placing mental bookmarks next to two other requests while I focused on a third... but when I saw him, the rest of the world blurred. I stared at his old and tattered and weathered and wrinkled face and shook my head.

"There's my old man. I have something for you."

I gave him the letter that had become the inner decor of my top drawer like it was some kind of certificate of merit. I held my hand on his shoulder for a minute, and felt like I was about to cry for relief or joy and grief for my old man's life, what I know of it and what will come of it.
He thanked me, and the moment passed, and the other demands flooded back in as Tricky Dick stumbled and tipped his way back out into the street.


  1. Anna, can I link this blog to my teaching writing class blog? I think some of my classmates would love to read it.

  2. sure, sara! i'm glad that you read it.