Falling Through the Cracks

Some may simply fade away.

Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

Yesterday as I was driving home from doing errands in town, I turned the last left on the last block to get to my house.

On my right was an aging woman. Immediately upon seeing her, I could tell something was amiss. Though it was still a quarter block away before I would pass her, I could see that she was speaking to herself,

As I got closer, she stepped out of my way. She had been sort of in my path. I slowed down. She was murmuring something. As I got closer to her, it became obvious that she was distraught. The elderly woman showed dismay, an expression of fright played on her face. Just as I was about to pass her, she waved with her hands, though not convincingly. It looked like she was signaling me.

I rolled to a stop. Rolled down my window and asked her. ‘Hi Mam, is everything okay? Is there anything I can do for you?’ Before she spoke, it became clear in that moment that she was lost. I assumed Alzheimer’s.

‘Yes, kind sir, I’m lost. I can’t seem to find my way home.’ She looked like she might burst into tears. I asked her to climb into my car and told her not to be scared.

She hesitatingly climbed in, ‘I’m lost and I can’t remember where I live, my home.’ Tears formed.

‘Do you have a phone number we could call?’ I wasn’t expecting she would know. How could she, after all, she couldn’t even find her way home?

‘5700 3546’, she said almost automatically. I was impressed. Must be that one suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s can have clear access to certain information in their brain. I quickly dialed.

Immediately, another elderly woman answered. I told her about the lost woman I’d picked up. ‘Yes, oh my goodness, yes, she is my friend. Thank you, kind sir, for helping her, that’s very kind. You are a gentleman. She lives just two blocks up and on the left from where you are right now.’ Her voice and her usage of a much more formal manner of speech told me she was probably just as old as the woman I’d picked up. She thanked me several times, clearly relieved that someone had found her friend.

I found it interesting that the lost woman gave me the phone number of a friend and not her home or a family member. We proceeded up the inclined roadway and, just a few blocks away, found her home. After we parked, I helped her out of the car. Entering the front door, she called, ‘my dear, my dear.’ Her husband answered from a bedroom. He was in bed with his feet propped up to counteract some issues with his circulation. The man wore large, goggle like dark shades.

My new friend invited me in, insisted I come in to introduce me to her husband. ‘This kind gentleman found me in the street. I couldn’t remember how to get home.’

‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. Please accept my deepest gratitude for bringing my wife home. She gets lost more and more. Now we try to keep the front door locked, but somehow she was able to get out today. Thanks so much for your kind assistance sir.’

My new acquaintances’ stilted conversation was rather typical of a time in Guatemala, more fitting in the early nineteen hundreds, a proper form of speech now heard less and less. Now, here in the midst of unmistakable lost fortune, in the shadows of super homes built in incredibly extravagant, quasi Spanish colonial architectural styles found in Antigua, that of the well off from the capital, now seemed to be waiting for something.

As though waiting on the final chapter.

I began to find my way out of the house when another, younger man appeared, though by no means young, maybe late sixties. ‘Ah, let me introduce you to my son Alejandro. He lives with us and he helps care for me.’ I reached to shake his hand and I couldn’t help notice he’d subtly averted his eyes. Clearly ashamed at being outed as a live- in, grown son. It happens.

Alejandro soon warmed up to me and was quite talkative, as though relieved to carry a conversation other than with his two aging parents. It occurred to me that had his economic situation been better, he would live in his own house. Maybe he would employ a crew of nurses to live in with his parents. Here in Guatemala, such a situation is feasible.

One didn’t have to be rich in Guatemala to bring in nurses. But their situation had sunk below where they at one time could’ve paid for the help.

Even though Alejandro had to live at his parents’ now rather aged and degenerated home, I could perceive the place at one time had a certain charm from earlier times. Now, it lacked a certain polished.

Their entry gate let on to a small parking area, which included three roofed over parking spaces. An old Fiat took one space up. The single story structure had aged. From my varying perspectives, as I walked through the house, I could see a former grandeur. I could easily pick out several poorly executed added on rooms, giving the house a rather broken up and mismatched configuration. Now the colony, with its new, modern homes, had left this house behind along with several others similar in the neighborhood.

It was as though this dwindling group, from a once prosperous past, were now hanging on as though old TV reruns of better times.

All those years ago, their economic situation must have been much more robust. The old man with his feet up had been the man who’d carried the weight for countless years. Whatever business they may have had was, for whatever reason, now lost in the past. The rambling, shadow filled, and to a degree depressing structure now sat at the far end of the colony, all but forgotten.

The shadowy place had a humid, cool dankness about it.

It occurred to me that the son, now an old man, living with his mom and dad, had also been left behind. Money runs out. Related family who could have helped are nowhere to be seen. It might be that back when the old man could help fellow kin and didn’t was now reaping the exacting and inescapable meager harvests.

I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I knew the son could never leave his parents. The low volume TV in the old man’s darkly lit room seemed to mark the seconds, minutes, hours and days, a sort of inevitable countdown. For some reason, the not so young son kept coming to mind. Something about his demeanor touched my heart.

His sad face told me more than I wished to know.

Why hadn’t the aging and dying parents turned him out of the house many years before?

The old saying: ’what goes around, comes around’ came to mind. I made a mental note. I think that older parents can be guilty of hanging on to children. Not always the child’s fault.

As we started out the front door, after I said my goodbyes and wished the old folks well, Alejandro escorted me out.

He suddenly surprised me, as though he’d read my mind. ‘My father maintained all the printing equipment for El Imparcial, the nation’s top newspaper in the capital. You are familiar with El Imparcial?’

‘Oh yes, of course.’ I remembered well that it had won recognition world wide as one of the best run newspapers.

Alejandro went on. ‘He used to travel to suppliers all over the world. Sometimes he would take me to Europe on supply trips. He worked there for forty-three years. At first he sold equipment to El Imparcial and to other newspapers, but the paper hired him on as a top executive. Over time, the equipment became obsolete, costs became too high for the German equipment and finally they let my father go.’ I had no choice other than to take in what he was telling me. I sensed he felt a need to tell me.

‘My father was never able to find an equivalent position in another firm. When he was fired, he was an older man.’ And there it was. As an afterthought, Alejandro added that they’d brought in a young engineer from Germany full of all the latest and best ideas.

Rather literally, the man now in his dying bed had been put out to pasture. Whatever the reason was he was one of those unable to reset, to reboot, to find meaningful employment elsewhere. It happens.

‘Please feel free to visit any time, sir. Once again, I wish to thank you for your kindness. My mother is slowly getting worse and we try to watch that she doesn’t leave the house without one of us to accompany her.’ His manner of speaking eerily from ancient times in the once Spanish colonial town.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Tom Jacobson

Tom Jacobson

Discovered the world of Medium some years ago. Amazing! Published first book, romantic adventure in Guatemala and Nicaragua, on Amazon. Title Lenka: Love Story.