Thursday, October 18, 2007

Forty Years Of Friendship

Carl and I were full of the energy of youth when we met. I was the photographer from the newspaper, and our office was across the plaza from Carl's shoe repair shop. I had nearly shoulder length hair while Carl wore his in a huge Afro. I still have a profusion of curls while Carl is bald, and he's just a few years older than I am, but it's been years since he had much hair.

Until a couple of years ago I'd stop by his shop several times a month just to chat, sometimes to get new soles or heels, and often enough just so we could exchange comments as we watched the college girls wander from store to store through the plaza. Likely as not they're the granddaughters of the college girls we watched in the old days.

Then he had the stroke. He was in the hospital for maybe a year, then they moved him into the nursing home adjacent to the hospital. He struggled for months but he learned to speak clearly again. His left hand became as useable for fine tasks as his right had once been so he has no trouble feeding himself.

He can stand using crutches and a leg brace. He can stagger a few steps, but he can't really walk. He has a wheel chair and can get around in it, but he can't get from bed to chair or back again without help. He's given up on his dream of going back to his shoe repair shop. When you're nearing seventy the body just doesn't recover that fast, no matter how many hours of physical therapy you do. The shop is empty now, the equipment sold off, a big for rent sign in the window. A lot of his long time customers stop by to visit him. He hates the food at the home. Bring him a Whopper, some fresh fruit like strawberries, perhaps a can of nuts if you think of it. If not he's happy just for the company and he can still smile the smile that we all remember.

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