Sunday, July 29, 2007

Friday Without Archie

Friday I drove 19 senior citizens to lunch. 16 women, and 3 men. Average age of the gals on board was 87, the guys 84. But this time around Archie wasn't there. Middle of July Archie turned 106 and since I'm selfish it was cool to have a friend that old so I dug it. Archie was sharp, truly so, and could trot out baseball statistics far better than I ever could and that meant there was many a day of comparing eras and generations and ballparks, straight from the horses mouth.

I do this driving gig because its simply the most rewarding thing I've done in quite a while. Loading a big old bus up with folks who can't get around by their lonesome means there's a captive audience for my bad jokes and since everyone is so grateful there's nary a bitch or moan that isn't genuine. Some can't walk, some can't see, some can do both but don't remember their name. None of them would get to go to a place like the Newberry Outdoor Barbecue joint for a rousing lunch, but they do and they are so happy to be there it makes your eyes water a little. I start them off with an old song or two as we hit the road, and the ones who can join in do so and its laughing and stuttering the whole ride long. Can't begin to relate what its like being around happy people. Sure, they're easy to please and take comfort from the most simple of courtesy's but comfort and courtesy can be free of charge so why the hell not.

Arch died early last week. One moment he was waving a finger at some idjit who thought Ty Cobb was over-rated, and the next he was gone. At 106 it can happen just that way. His heart gave up the fight and Arch went to sleep and there goes my walking, talking encyclopedia of everything important that happened from his first memories so lets say 1907'ish or so. Arch remembered his childhood days better than I can recall last week, but his legs were shot and he needed someone to hoist him around ever since the last of his children died of old age. He was always happy and self-deprecating, and the consummate gentleman. Helped too that he weighed maybe 90 lbs soaking wet and I could tuck him under an arm to get his silly ass onto a large vehicle and we'd joke as to when it was time to have a strap handle surgically attached for good.

Comes with the territory when one deals with old people. There, I didn't call them senior citizens. They don't, they call themselves old people and even if it isn't polite to do so face to face for this moment in time I'll talk like Archie did and call a spade a spade. I take old people shopping and to lunches. I watch over them the best I can and if some street punk thinks they're ripe for a hassle he finds himself upside down in the nearest garbage can awaiting the arrival of the local constabulary. This is Florida and they know what to do to those who frig with old people. I'm learning that too.

Archie won't be sending me porn pics via email anymore, and since like I said I'm selfish so I'll miss that. Helen is 97 and too frail to do much of anything but look at the scenery as it whizzes by but she's smarter than me so I guess I'll have to start talking to her a lot more. She was a semi-pro at tennis, climbed mountains as a hobby when she wasn't lecturing at MIT or some other fancy place, and who knows. She might even remember some baseball stuff. Helen was one of the few that Archie didn't refer as the-kid so he might even approve.

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