He walked really, really, slowly. It didn't look like his walker was a help, other than to stabilise him. In fact it looked like it took a whole lot of effort to move it along. I was whipping by him in my power chair, concentrating on what I had to do, so it was a miracle that I heard him speak. "Young man," he called out, and somehow I knew he was speaking to me.
Went back to him.
He sat down on his walker, breathless he asked questions about my power chair. How did I get it? What was the funding process? Did I have to have a doctor's recommendation? I answered all of his questions. He then told me that he has wanted to get a power chair or a scooter for several months now. He also told me that his family would have none of it. They didn't want him to give up and give in to the use of a chair. He said that he was nearing ninety, that his world had grown very small. He didn't want to give up walking but he wanted a bigger world.
What struck me about this conversation, stranger to stranger, was the fear that he had of upsetting his family. He didn't want to lose their love or their approval. But he wanted his independence back. He wanted to be able to go over to the Bay for a haircut, he wanted to drop by his favourite pub for a pint, he wanted to be able to go out without having to figure how much energy he had and how far he can go.
But he was fearful.
Talking to a stranger in a near whisper.
Worried about what he would lose while longing for what he would gain.
I tried to reassure him. Remind him that these were his days, that this was his time, that what he wanted was reasonable.
But he couldn't hear my voice, over theirs.
We shook hands, I wished him well. And then I patted his arm and turned to leave. It broke my heart to see him sit and cry.
Out of fear.