Glad to Know You

I made a new friend in the waiting room at my CT on Tuesday. A cute little old bald guy with no teeth who talked and talked, and talked.

The first thing he told me was that he’d been diagnosed with cancer 2 days before. I told him I had it too, that it’s been almost 5 years. I was hoping to make him feel better but I don’t think it worked.

He told me he’d be 71 in three months. Then he told me he has already planned where he wants his ashes spread. I think he started to tell me they had told him he didn’t have long to live but he teared up and said “I won’t tell you that part”. That was the last thing he refused to say.

Other people were giving him looks. He was talking really loudly but I didn’t care. I understood why he was talking so much. Most of the time he had a kind of far away look in his eyes.

He needed someone to listen while he remembered his life.

He told me he grew up in rural Mississippi and that he’d played football on a really tough team right after they’d “integrated with the colored boys” and how much fun he had with them even though that wasn’t a popular opinion at that time.

When he was young he had an 11 toed cross-eyed cat who “was doomed from the beginning”. He had a tough old bird of a momma who didn’t put up with much from her 5 sons. He loved her very much.

He has a daughter who lives with her “lady friend”. They have given him 2 granddaughters who are the light of his life. He keeps pennies in his pocket just for them. The little one is blond and the older one is brunette.

He lost his son to drugs 2 years ago even though he’d tried over and over to warn him of the dangers. But before he died, his son had his own son so he hasn’t lost him completely.

I know that he left Mississippi when he was 18 and never went back except to visit his 109 yr old grandfather but somehow he didn’t lose his accent.

Mostly I know, and appreciate, that after hearing he has advanced prostate cancer he felt the need to review his life. I got the feeling he was talking to himself as much as to me. He was sitting by himself, he was a bit lost, he was a little lonely and more scared than he wanted me to know.

But I did know. I’ve been there.

He said it hasn’t been an easy life, then he changed the subject to his old labrador retriever, his boxing days and the time he’d been shot.

I was simply a sounding board as he looked back and reflected on the part of his story that has already been told. As he faces what is probably the final chapter of his life.

The techs were saying he was being difficult by not drinking his contrast. I know that in this new unknown scary world with cancer in it, he was trying to be in control, of anything, even if it was only the amount of oral contrast he drank.

He was feisty as hell but he knows he’s probably dying. It was my job, my honor, to listen to his stories. I lost my grandfather to prostate cancer when he was 68 – and I was 14. I miss his stories but Tuesday I got to listen to somebody else’s grandfather. I’m grateful that our paths crossed but I’m sad that his granddaughters will lose him too soon.

When my father is introduced to somebody he always says “glad to know you” instead of “nice to meet you”. I’ve always liked that. With him it’s always very genuine, it comes from the heart.

I don’t know if our paths will cross again but I’d just like to say, I’m very glad to know you Mr. Hardy.

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14 thoughts on “Glad to Know You

  1. How very sweet! I lost my Dad 2 years ago and I miss his ‘stories’. I admire you Annie ~ so many others would NOT have listened to Mr. Hardy. See – you’re a much better person for getting to know him …and sharing with us ♥

    • I’m sorry about your dad! Mine is still alive and I can’t (won’t) even begin to imagine life without him. Think of all we miss when we tune people out right? Though I’m guilty of that more often than not, I’m glad this time I didn’t.

  2. You reminded me that i have not done anything spontaneous for someone lately. I start off well, telling myself that this year I will try and do something random, some little thing to make someone that I do not know happy and then I go for a week, miss a few days and before you know it I haven’t done anything for a month. then I start the cycle again. Every year when I have my mammogram I start to shake the day or two before and when I actually get there I have a difficult time putting one foot in front of the other. When I am in the waiting room and looking around I see women listening to other women and for a few minutes forgetting their own troubles. You did that for this fellow and came away with the best feeling of all, helping someone without them knowing it. All the best wishes for you this week.

    • Thank you Barbara! It was quickly returned to me when Mr Hardy went in to scan and I began talking to the woman next to me. She has been fighting this disease (successfully) for 17 years. Three occurences & two different types of cancer. Talking to her gave ME hope.

  3. Oh, Annie, that goodness just radiates out into the world… My grandmother (“Mamalady”/Natalie) was just like that with people and stories ~ she never met a stranger. Thank you for letting the ripples of Mr. Hardy’s stories, and his fears, echo out to us. We will hold them tenderly, and let the gift of connection touch us.

    • Thank you Andrea! I hope I run into him again some day. I suspect he may be visiting the same oncologist I am. I bet he’ll be good for another post if I do. I’m sure he didn’t share even a fraction of his stories that day!

  4. Pingback: Blogging Angels Best & Worst of 2010 | Blogging Angels

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