It got to be a bit of a ritual. I pull out of the elevator in the morning to wait either for WheelTrans or for Joe to pick me up. The Superintendent of our building is a morning person and he'd come out of his office and chat with me for a bit. He had spent much of his youth in England working for the Air Force and had a lot of stories. He's just a good a listener as a talker, so our conversations are lively and fun.
Then, something went wrong.
He just wasn't there anymore.
When we saw him during the day he looked tired and drawn. Just before our last trip he called us aside and told us that the cancer he'd fought years ago had come back. He was putting a brave face on it but I could tell he was frightened. Both of us felt honoured that we, as new tenants, were on the list of people he told. Both of us wished that there was something we could do.
I saw him this afternoon. I came home from work and he came out of the office and sat on the bench in front of the building. I sat in my wheelchair and we talked. Not about cancer, not about illness, just about travelling. He knew, from his wife, that we had been to California so I told him about the flight, the weather, the security guy who wanted to take my luggage.
God, I desperately wanted to ask him how he was doing. I wanted to know about test results and treatment options and future plans. But this conversation wasn't about my needs, it was just a chat like we've had many a morning. He indicated that it was getting cold and he had to go and tell one of the contractors about a job. I went inside, glad of the warmth myself.
His wife came and joined me and said that it was good to see him just sitting and talking again. Doing something normal. Telling stories. Being interested.
I watched him walk back into the building. Trying to fight the exhaustion that was overtaking him. He sat on the sofa and we talked a little longer. Joe finished unloading the car and came to get me into the apartment.
The only gift I could give him was normalcy.
I knew as he unwrapped it that it was exactly his size.