Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dementia


I walked into the restaurant a little bit after the lunch rush, so it was pretty quiet. I notice an old man sitting at a table near the entrance because his ears are comically large and they remind me of my grandfather. His short, thin hair has gone completely white. He is wearing a cream colored polo shirt and has a golf club - a metal putter - leaning against his seat at a jaunty angle. He stares off at nothing, as if he was posing for the cover of Adorable Old Men Magazine. His table was empty, containing neither lunch nor any post-lunch debris.
I brought a book with me and ended up staying longer than I should have. As I hurriedly finish my meal I look up and the man is still sitting there. He does not seem to have moved in nearly an hour, and aside from the employees there is only me and one other person at a far table still in the restaurant. The old man seems perfectly content to continue doing nothing when an employee comes up to him. This is a fast food, order at the counter sort of place, and I am not sure I have ever seen an employee in the dining area.
The employee asks the old man if he intends to order anything.
"What?" he asks, a little too loudly. She raises her voice to repeat her inquiry.
The old man is now visibly confused. "Do I know you?" he asks. "I don't think so" She replies, "I have never seen you in [Restaurant] before."
"Why am I in [Restaurant]?" he asks.
"Would you like something to eat?" She asks.
The old man processes this as best he can and shakes his head. "No thank you, ma'am. I think I would like some lunch." She smiles forgivingly and asks what he would like. He considers for nearly a full minute. I would have given him a nudge but the employee waits with a patient smile.
Finally he says, "My wife is making dinner, and I can't spoil my appetite." He puts one hand down hard on the table and the other on the back of his chair and lifts himself bodily to his feet. His legs shake as he reaches for the head of the putter which he uses as a too-short cane. He shuffles out slowly.
I finish lunch quickly with half a mind to follow him, but when I reach the street he is making his way in the opposite direction from my office. I was late, it was hot, helping is hard and I turn to do the easy thing instead of the right thing.
I can only hope his wife really was at home making dinner.

No comments:

Post a Comment