Don't Mince Words


The wandering father

Posted on June 21, 2009 by Marna

Tex and I were strolling back from our walk to the coffee shop on Melrose. We were in the home stretch, the last block, where Tex always lags behind. He’s not slow because he’s sniffing everything. He’s just old and tired. His hips try to keep up with his mind, but often fail him.

Half-way up the block I noticed an old man going about the same pace as Tex. As we got closer, the 80-something had on a blue wife beater, a full adult diaper, and gray-blue loafer slippers with dark blue piping on the top, just like my dad used to wear. He was holding a bush with each step he took as he headed north to Santa Monica Boulevard. I said good morning as we passed. His face looked like he had not shaved in a week. I remember that old man look from my father. Why bother when you are ill and the folds in your face make it even harder to shave? As I fed Tex, I called the West Hollywood sheriff and explained there was a semi-ambulatory old man with dementia out for a stroll on my block. I’d never seen him before and didn’t know which building he came from. They said they’d send a patrol car over. Tex retreated to his day bed to look out the front door.

The old man shuffled past two more houses before he stopped to rest on a brick wall. Approximately 40 minutes elapsed and his caretaker had finely come out to find him, about the same time the patrol cars rolled up. I walked out and talked to one of the sheriffs.

“Thanks for coming. I realize this was a less-than-desirable call, but I just couldn’t let this guy wander on Father’s Day,” I told him.

“God, I hadn’t thought of that,” the sheriff said. He laughed and continued with “it did look like he was making a break for it didn’t it?”

When Tex becomes incontinent and in pain, he’ll get the shot. My dad, when he realized his life was tied to a dialysis machine, elected to discontinue treatment and fade away. But I think the cruelest death is living in a shell of a body not knowing who you are and reliant on others while you look for life.

The wandering old man deserves to be in a better place.

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  • About Marna

    Marna’s writing career started as a Pentagon intern. Early exposure to $500 toilet seat press releases made her appreciate creative nonfiction. Now she has more than 25 years of senior-level marketing and communications success working with Fortune 100 companies, government, nonprofits, small businesses, startups, and agencies.

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