There’s a sweet, elderly gentleman who lives just around the corner from our apartment in the City. If we’re lucky, we’ll bump into him once a week or so. His hair is white and a little unkempt. He walks slowly and deliberately, a cane providing assistance. Everyone’s in a hurry around here and I can feel my anxiety rise when I see strangers carelessly brushing past him. “BE CAREFUL PEOPLE!” I want to shout. “How will YOU want to be treated when you’re a senior citizen?!”
Instead, we quicken our pace and Theo takes over, furry diplomacy at the ready. He sidles up and offers a hello with a wag of the tail, soft eyes, and a little gentle leaning. And though the man seems a bit unsteady on his feet, as soon as he sees Theodore, his eyes begin to sparkle and a warm, broad smile follows. He’s tickled to see his canine buddy and the feeling is mutual. We chat for a bit while making our way towards his door, and then wish our neighbor well before moving on.
I do love this city and these unexpected moments of connection…
Like our neighbor, Theodore is a senior too. Late last month, we marked his 10th Birthday and celebrated with a romp outdoors on a frigid Vermont afternoon. It was so cold, the fields of snow seemed more like endless tundra and as I wrapped a scarf around to cover my face, the phrase, “Not Fit for Man nor Beast” came to mind.
Theo’s cousin Kaya visited that day. A sweet surprise, since it had been ages since the two had seen each other. So, I stood back and watched while they tore around together, all the while, the sun playing a game of hide and seek.
I remember how awkward and rangy he was when we first met at the shelter. But when I look at him now, there’s something regal about him.
Regal and gentle and wise.
Though we still run together–his little sister Lila on the left, Theo on the right–all of us keeping a respectable pace, this ten year old boy reminds me now and then that he needs a tender touch. Be Patient, he tells me. Let’s take our time. So, on slippery surfaces, we move like molasses. Theo has always needed traction to feel confident, now more than ever.
So, I reassure him that I won’t rush and and let him fall, and he returns the favor by making a go of it. (Booties with sticky, rubbery soles are becoming standard equipment around here.)
When I stir in the morning, still warm in bed and tucked under the covers, Theo rises to greet me. He’s not effusive or wiggly or boisterous. He simply rests his head on the bed and makes his soft ears available for stroking. I bury my face in his white, furry chest and wrap my arms around his neck and thank this sweet boy for starting my day off with so much love and calm.
Every day, I think I couldn’t possibly love him more than I already do. But then every day, I prove myself wrong.