Saturday, February 18, 2012

To Loren

He sat in his wheelchair facing the sun.

The wheelchair was parked, not in anyone's way, but off to the side where it could be in the sun and he could see the water and waves. I came up from the beach and there he was.

Noticed first was this bundled figure in the wheelchair. Then the big slippers, the kind associated with hospital stays or with those whose feet hurt or are inflamed and can't tolerate the whisper of touch upon them.

I looked into his face as I went by, greeting him and hoping he wouldn't see compassion in my look which must have been there. My trust was that he would only take in the friendly hello.

His face, turned to the late afternoon light, was brick-red. The unnatural flush to his roughened skin might have been the warmth of sun on him. As easily it could have been the outward aspect of the illness within. His features were puffy. His eyelids were swollen.

He was not a pretty sight. My heart went to him.
There was tenacity in his lines, however, as he gazed with a kind of hunger into the strength of the Florida sun.

Much later, the impression of the man returned to me. I wondered if he asked to be brought here.

Possibly he came wanting to view the water as much as to be in the sun, which you could tell he was drinking up with every fiber of his being. Perhaps the water, equally with the sun, drew him.

It came to me that the setting could be providing him an association with his career. It was keeping fresh his keen relationship with the sea. It held comfort for him.

He could have been a naval man or in some maritime position.
Perhaps he was a born fisherman. He was avid for the proximity of the waters that once gave him so much fulfillment or sense of worth or duty.

He was there as if all alone but it couldn't possibly be. Someone with kindness had brought him here, to this very place, to sit and be at peace.

His name was Loren. My husband, following after me, heard him addressed by this name. Someone was with him as his escort and help. Likely it was a family member or some friend. They were generously giving Loren this afternoon on the Gulf.

Beaches are full of life. Kids rule. They kick up sand as they race to the water's edge. They either yelp in trepidation or fling themselves with joy into the water.

They find shells which they trot over to their parents, dripping water and shaking off sand as they hand them over to bring back more.

They build sand castles and moats around which you must detour as you walk the beach, always careful not to break down a carefully fortified sand wall as you go by.

With their plastic shovels the small ones dig deep holes in the sand. They dig with enthusiasm and determination.

They dig as if intending to reach China on the other side, as we believed might after all be possible when we were at the beach at their age.

Loren was at the other end of the spectrum from the young life reveling in their day at the beach. His life had been lived. He had seen the fullness of life.

Wrapped up and puffed up, his presence at the beach told of life's fragility and brevity. It was in great contrast to the bustle on the beach.

His face square to the sun, he lifted a heavy hand to acknowledge my hello. He struck me as a fighter in that gesture. He was hanging on and he was going to enjoy the experience as he could.

Loren took the sun, the water and the waves for his own. There was a great sense of life in the stillness of him. He touched me deeply as he sat facing the sun.

Al and I began a little ritual after meeting Loren. It's a tribute to him. It's tacit understanding that one's good moments overlap the good moments of total strangers who can go on to shape you.

"To Loren," we say, clinking our wine glasses. May the good sun continue to shine warm on him.

Ro Giencke - February 18, 2012

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