I was at Whole Foods market on Thursday morning. I sometimes go there with Sophie after I drop of Nick at preschool. This particular location has a fun cross section of ethnicities and economics. There's the long haired organic attachment parenting hippy moms loading their boca burgers into their Mexican woven environmentally sound shopping bags. There's the Tommy Hilfiger clothed mommy and daddys toting their twins (by surrogate, hence mom's killer rack) in designer puffy stroller seat covers. They are usually on their cel phones calling out names of cities, which might lead you to believing their travel agents, until their kids respond to mom's shrieks, "Berlin, take your hand off of London's cheek RIGHT now or we will NOT be going for sushi". There's the twenty five year old Sarah Jessica Parker type clad in the DKNY business suit buying her premade lunches for the week, and equally as many red wines. Then, there's Marty.
As it turns out, Marty is a 85 year old wheelchair bound senior with no legs. Like me, he was sipping coffee in the cafe' area. I saw the headline "Williams Awaiting Death Penalty" and as it turns out, for the first time this month, I actually listened to NPR this morning. I had to know Marty's story, so I threw a quick comment his way about how many years William's has already spent in jail. I figured Marty would either start talking, grateful for company, or pretend not to hear me. Lucky for me, he started jabbering right away. At first, it was about the news. How terrible people act. Within minutes he had rolled himself over to my table. I detected an accent, which led to the info that he was a Jew. He was born in England and moved to Italy when he was 17. There he met a woman who "had a body that would not stop" and married her. She was the love of his life. He is still not over the fact that she died of cancer in 82. He stopped believing in God when his son died a year later. Five years later he married wife #2. He likes her, but... (now in a hushed tone as she was due to meet him soon) ..he's not in love with her. She's lost too much weight recently. And let's face it "I have a lot of women chasing me at the senior center. Not that I'd marry them, but I could have a nice relationship".
A quick interjection: This is a typical man. He's 85. He has no legs. He has on old clothes. But he claims women are chasing him. I almost added "Of course they're running after you... it's not like you can run after them" but I refrained. I would say he's arrogant, but I kind of believe him. This guy has a fabulous personality. He's engaging. And there's some women who can't live without a man, so perhaps it's true....
Anyway, before his wife came, and before Sophie passed him the 100th brochure from our table on "whole foods veggies" he slipped me his # on a check book cover. "I live in Room 26 at the Senior Center... come to the front desk if you ever want to have coffee. And bring the kids! I am not trying to push a friendship on you, but I like you. You're fun to talk to. And it gets lonely."
Then he wheeled away.
As I watched him converse with the woman he did not love (though he'd been with her for over 20 years) I was struck with how someone can spend a whole life adding memories to the vault, but without someone new to talk about them, they mean nothing.
I weighed the pros and cons of calling this guy one day. Cons: He's a total stranger. I have so many obligations already. He does more talking than listening. Pros: He can't exactly attack me - he's bound to a chair. It's good for the kids to see older people and not be scared. He's wicked smart, funny and full of story potential.
Guess which option will win out?