This morning I went to Fred Meyer's to buy some milk and a couple of other things we'd run low on. As I approached the door, a man who appeared to be homeless made eye contact with me. I thought he was going to ask for money but instead he put his hands up to his ears and asked me, "Do you hear the Nazis talking?" I told him no, I didn't hear anyone talking. "Well, I can hear them right inside my head on my little radio and they're talking to me." What do you say in answer to that? So I just smiled at him and went on my way.
All my life I've seemed to attract people who are a little...off...in the head. Other people will walk past them and they won't speak to them, but I come along and they'll try to engage me in conversation. And unless I'm in a super big hurry, I'll usually at least acknowledge them. I've never been threatened in any way by any of them so they don't frighten or repulse me. Maybe it's because of having a great-grandmother who spent most of her life in a mental hospital that it's given me a certain empathy towards them. Everyone has a voice and everyone should be shown the respect of at least being listened to.
There's a man who lives a few blocks down our street. Last summer on one of our walks, he turned down the same street Dylan and I were walking along and, as he approached us from behind to pass us, he spoke up and told me he didn't want to frighten me, he just wanted me to know he lived down 'that way' and was on his way home. He wasn't particularly scary looking but at that time I'd thought he might be homeless, he was so rag-tag looking and carrying plastic bags full of empty pop bottles. He ended up walking along beside us for a while and I had a very nice conversation with him. Then, as we approached his street, he pointed and told me he lived 'that way' and trudged off towards...who knew where? Well, since then I've come across him a few times, passing by his house and seeing him tinkering around outside. I always greet him and he always calls out, "Hi, little feller!" to Dylan or "Hi, puppy dog!" to Chloe, depending on who's with me. His house isn't fancy by any means, just a small cottage, but it's neat and clean. I know none of his past history...every time he sees me, it's like he's meeting me again for the first time. He doesn't seem to have any short term memory. You know how your imagination works sometimes...I've dreamed up a scenario of his life, from the little bit I've seen. I imagine, because of his age, that he's a man who must've served in Viet Nam. That he must've seen too much action. That he buried those memories in drugs and alcohol. He has his peaceful little life in his peaceful little house, a threat to no one and doing the best he can to make it thru each day.
On the Sunday when we set our clocks forward I was out walking Chloe dog and we'd just passed by his house. I heard a voice call out to me, "Miss! Miss!" so I turned, and this gentleman was running down the street towards me so I waited for him. "Do you know what time it is? Is it 1:00 or 2:00?" I told him 2:00 and he heaved a big sigh of relief. He said, "That's what my clocks in the house say and I know we were supposed to change the time. But I couldn't remember if I'd reset them or not. I thought I had but when I saw you I thought I better go ask. Now I know I'm not crazy." I laughed and told him no, he was doing just fine. And he was. He thanked me politely and went on home.
He is some mother's son. A damaged soul. That's all. And to not take the time to listen to his voice just because he's 'different', just because he's not quite like the rest of us, is something I can't do. We're all sojourners, trying to find our way in an often frightening and confusing world. And some of us have lost our way is all.