Before my grandpa died, he used to always tell my mom, in great detail, about his mall walks. It's actually quite a spectacle if you go on a Saturday morning. Elderly men and women of all speeds and sizes cruise around the outer perimeter of the mall as a source of exercise and often do so simply to escape the feelings of loneliness that can commonly plague them. My grandpa would explain to my mother how, as he walked, people would hardly look at him. Especially the younger people. He explained how he felt invisible. Like he had passed through time, and now no one cared. Only the mannequins in the store windows really saw him. He was just a shadow moving along the inner walls.
On the corner of Lincoln and Lydia, adjacent to our dorm building, is a retirement home for the elderly. Every now and then, I see one particular older man haltingly push his walker toward that corner and take a seat on the small shelf hooked to the front of his apparatus. I've seen him sitting there for hours at a time before. I'll drive to class and then drive back after, and he'll still be there. He sits kind of crouched down, elbows resting on the arms of his walker and his wrinkled hands clasped in front. His beige golf cap is always a bit tipped down over an incredibly creased face, and his neck seems to be sinking into the rest of his body.
I wonder what he thinks about - watching the traffic zoom by and observing a barrage of college students tromp across the crosswalk everyday. I wonder if it makes him remember when he was young. I wonder if he's lonely. Or if he has a family who visits him. Or if he went to war when he was twenty-three or fell in love at a gas station. I wonder if he is forgotten. Maybe he counts his cheerios out everyday, exactly nineteen. Maybe he lives for TV dinners and the six o'clock news and his walks to the corner. I wonder if he feels like a shadow.
As I pulled up to the stop sign, before I even knew what I was doing, I found myself waving energetically and smiling at him. Almost immediately, a smile spread to his furrowed face, and he haltingly pulled a shaking hand out of his teal windbreaker and raised it to wave back. I saw him in my rearview mirror as I drove away, still grinning and holding his quivering hand in the air.
It's curious that Roseville would place a retirement home on one side of the street and a college dorm on the other. Like two bookends. We prologue and they epilogue. The rest in between is still missing.
Well, I hope he knows that he was recognized today, that he wasn't overlooked or disregarded. I can't stop thinking about him.