Thursday, November 01, 2007


After lunch at the Olive Garden, I went outside for some fresh air while waiting for my friends to wrap up their conversations. The mid-afternoon was cool and the overcast sky omened the chance of rain. There was an empty bench outside the door so I took a seat and relaxed.

As I waited, the door opened and a short elderly man with a cane slowly came outside. A staff-member came up behind him and held the door for him. Under his unkempt white hair, his jaw was slack, he had droopy skin below his eyes, he had a paunch and he shuffled slowly. He was a sad sight. There must be many elderly folk who come here for an inexpensive main meal at lunch. Ah, there’s my judgment.

The door remained open as I saw the front end of a walker placed on the ground and an elderly woman, shorter than the preceding man, emerged behind it. She took two steps, then moved the walker to do the same again. She had a red sweater draped over her shoulders.

The door remained open as an even shorter white haired gentleman with a cane followed the woman out the door. The door shut. As he passed by, he looked directly at me and I saw a weathered Mediterranean face; Greek, Italian, Spanish, I'm not sure. Our eyes met but nothing passed from either of us to the other. He turned his attention to the steps ahead of him.

When the woman arrived at the curb, the first man, now on the street, turned to assist her by holding the walker. The second man came up and assisted from one side by holding her elbow. They slowly place the walker on the street and she gingerly stepped off the curb. When that was negotiated, the second man reached to adjust the sweater back onto her shoulders as it had slipped off a bit.

As the trio crossed the parking lot to their car a big SUV came around the corner rather fast but came to an abrupt halt to let them continue on their way.

I was impressed (I was going to say struck, but thought better of it), I was impressed by the quiet dignity they showed as they maneuvered to their car. No words were spoken during the entire episode, nor boisterous display of emotion; just a simple knowing of their purpose; gentle movements of affection and decency.

I turned and rose to meet my chatty friends now leaving the restaurant. We said our goodbyes and departed to our cars. I did not look at the three travelers again. Yet this snapshot of life stuck with me and I’ve pondered what took place.

The halt and the lame, the feeble and infirm have something to say: sometimes with words, always with actions.

Ron Eklof 2007

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Now, John always considered himself a pretty smart fella except when he wasn't or tried to hide that he was. I mean, he didn't think he was an Einstein or anything. He knew didn't have any street smarts or common sense; you could ask his mother, she’d tell ya. But then, Einstein had someone looking after his mundane needs like what to wear and eat each day, when to get a haircut. Forget that last bit. I digress and I will again.

Let me tell you how John hides his intelligence.

There was this time he’s with a group of friends, some acquaintances really, not family. They got thrown together because of the evacuation during a hurricane in Florida. He lived in a mobile home and you know they’re the first to go.

So they’re together, see, at these folk’s house and there’s five adults; three women and two men, and five animals; three dogs and two cats. As he enters their home lugging in some belongings, he notices a colorful puzzle in disarray on the dining room table. It's got about 10 pieces. He stores his gear and goes to the kitchen with his wife, Gloria to get more acquainted with their friend’s home. He doesn’t know it yet, but they're going to spend the better part of the next three days together in this safe house.

John will help Bill to store things from outside the house into the garage. Get things tied down, put up and shut away from the onslaught to come. He’ll watch TV to boredom, keeping up with the weather reports, you know. That is, until the power goes out the next afternoon.

He’ll be reading the paper, talking, going out for groceries, sleeping, walking the dogs, looking out the windows, the usual stuff, making jokes and laughing at the other folk’s humor. He’ll start but not finish reading a new book for him, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers. That’s the setup.

Now, Bill spends some time working on that puzzle and his daughter Julie joins him. Bill leaves the table after a while talking as how the fiend who gave them this puzzle, Bill's mother-in-law, said she knew of someone who solved it in 20 minutes. Yeah, right. Now, there’s a double positive that’s a negative.

So Julie works on it alone until her mother, Sara, joins in and it becomes a tadoodle while they talk of family stuff cause Julie's there from Orlando as her husband is a cop and will be working non-stop in some shelter while this hurricane goes on and Sara wanted the family together during the storm. Bill wanted that, too, of course.

Gloria goes over and spends some time on the puzzle with them. They all leave after a while, frustrated with it I guess. Sara and Gloria gather up the makings of a meal and ask John to go on a food run (jellybeans and chocolate covered raisins the most important items) while the stores are still open and if he sees one, “pick up a jigsaw puzzle while you’re at it”.

Quick forward. It's the third day. John hasn't looked closely at the puzzle yet, just a passing glance now and then. They’ve all left that puzzle in the dining room to rot in Hell. They’re at the kitchen table now, working on a 500 piece scenic and it's slow going. Small “Ah ha’s” when two pieces come together and the dogs are involved as well. A piece will stick to an underarm and fall to the floor, guilelessly. Later someone will find that piece, wet and chewed. This masticated cardboard will join others on the table already mangled. Thanks guys.

Now it occurs, that John gets a notion to go look at that abandoned puzzle in the dining room. He thought at one point yesterday that it would be embarrassing if he just went over there after the others had spent so much time working on it and he just did it. So he didn’t go, until now, and here he is at the puzzle staring at it.

There are nine square pieces to form a larger square. On the four sides of each segment is half a small bird, Finches perhaps. One is blue, another red, another yellow and one multicolored. Hmmm. Each bird is the head half or the feet half. Most have one bird of each color on it but two pieces have two sides with the same color bird. Hmmm.

John separates them out and figures it matters most which piece goes in the center. Gloria joins him and tells him they've been looking at the pieces focusing on matching the bird’s tops and bottoms like he’s doing. Then she let's on that Bill thought those shadowy areas on the segments were worth looking at, too. Hmmm.

Gloria leaves, and John looks at each bird match, the color match and the shadow match. Bingo! It's done. Hmmm, two minutes, less than that!

He says, "I got it."


Bill, Julie and Gloria come over to check and Bill says, "Yeah, that looks right."

Julie says, ”Let’s turn the pieces over and mark them."

John says, "The clue of looking at the shadows made it happen," and fades into the background… the other room… a chair… then back to reading the new book.

It's like that sometimes for John. He will do a brilliant piece of work and then hide under a bushel so as not to let his light shine. Been like that most all his life: feeling apart from most everybody and wanting to fit in but not knowing the way. So he diminishes himself.

Oh, yeah, he works at the local college… in the supply department.

Ask his mother, she'll tell you, and “John just doesn’t have common sense But that’s just John bein’ John."

Ron Eklof 2004

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Rocky allowed me to walk with her this morning; the pleasure was mine. Sleep, still in my eyes and fog drifting through my mind, we walked into the hazy morning light.
The day was ours.

Like the start of most days, the first thing to do is to read the papers to know what's going on. Rocky showed me where to look; she has a nose for it. Printed on green leaves of grass and shrubs, on tree trunks, curbs and hydrants the daily dirt was plain to see if one has the tools to read it. Alas, I could only be the observer of her abilities even though the news was most everywhere.

It seems no names are dropped when each edition is printed; dogs are discreet. Some news was fresh, but most was old, some more interesting to Rocky than other news. No, everything was interesting. Perhaps there were notices of someone being in heat or statements of territorial issues beyond my ken.

A rusty yellow hydrant posted many advertisements, ignored after a quick scan as there were many lead stories to pursue. Rocky was glad that the leash was long. A running squirrel provided sports and the dog barking behind a backyard fence had breaking news. We met a fluffy white fur ball of a dog who gave me the comics but the personals to Rocky.

As we walked through the morning mist my companion left her own first edition and we traveled until the second edition was printed before turning back to read the other side of the street. This section had more advertising and even pop-up windows for two birds and another running squirrel.

I noted neither editorials nor opinions on these pages. Perhaps Rocky knows how to read between the lines. Though, there may have been letters to the editor, like graffiti scribbled on previous issues. All was local news, if not current at least as recent as the last rain.

It's the second editions that carry a more lasting message.

In conclusion, if you have a canine companion and are invited to go for a walk, even as the late edition is going to press, let your pet's nose be your guide as she reads all about it.

Ron Eklof 2003