Friday, December 22, 2006

Still standing

My neighbor, that is.

I passed him in his usual spot in front of his building yesterday afternoon. The usual opener:

Him: "Hello, how are you?"

Me: "Good, and you?"

Usually at this juncture his response is "Not too bad," and some conversation about the weather or something ensues.

This time: "I've been better."

I could already tell from his voice and body language that something was a bit off this time. Still, I wasn't prepared for what he said next:

"My brother passed away this morning."

Apparently D (the guy I talk to, who stands) had gone out for a bit that morning, for coffee or one of his usual routines; came back forty-five minutes later to find his brother laid out flat on on the bathroom floor.

"I called 911, but there was nothing they could do. What can you do?"

He'd fallen, I take it. The way people do, especially once they reach a certain age. And I guess hit his head or something. And that was it.

8:30 that morning, i guess is when the coroner made his pronouncement. By 3:30 or so at the latest, they've all long gone, the ambulance, the coroner, the people with their red and yellow tape. Funeral arrangements are to come, i suppose. And meanwhile, here's D, back out standing in his usual post in front of his building. Because,

"What can you do?"

I don't know either, really.


Chuckie K said...

When my mother fell, and 'only' fractured her pelvis, we were standing together outside in a sunny November afternoon. Just that much more than an arm's reach apart. She turned to go back in ... on the ground like that.
Is he even asking? Or just saying, you can't stay with them, you can't guard them, you can't save them. You live with them, and they die. It could be any day.

belledame222 said...

No, he wasn't asking.

He's getting up there himself. And now i guess he'll be alone in that apartment...

Renegade Evolution said...

thats one of those things I just don't know what to say to. I suck at that sort of thing. I mean, I am REALLY bad at it....

it sucks, but how does one say such things tactifully?

belledame222 said...

What, you mean to him? I just said, "I'm so sorry." (and other words to that effect). and listened to him for a little while.

what i don't know what to say about is the whole damn existential business.

or the guy's life, really. i mean: well, you know. People. it seems like he's just killing time, you know. waiting. i guess that's no different now; just, his apartment will be emptier. he doesn't have kids, i don't think.

maybe i'll offer to take him out for a coffee later this week or something.

you know, they say New York is hard and cold, but i think actually in a lot of ways he's less isolated than he would be if he lived in the suburbs. even if he did sit out on his front lawn all day; at least where i come from, people don't really stop and talk to you, or even think that's entirely kosher, you know, just...standing outside.

it's a real neighborhood; i can understand why he'd rather be outside than cooped up all day, alone.

it's still, well?

...i don't think it's the world's best way to spend one's twilight years, although i am sure there are worse ways, also.

this isn't a culture that is kind to our elders, on the whole.

Bimbo said...

You listened, Belle. You were receptive. That's enough. It counts.

lilcollegegirl said...

Definitely agree with bimbo. Sometimes that's really all one can do. I think that's one of the hardest things I've ever had to learn, is that sometimes, there really isn't anything to be done, except be there with.