What is it about the three of them and me that works so well? Perhaps it is just the passing of time and the regularity of our early morning encounters that accounts for the trust we have in each other’s good will. Our generosity to each other is more than my buying Abe his oatmeal or sausage and cheese sandwich.
And at least a year before I thought to say, “I’m equanimous,” I accepted the hassle that often accompanies being with the elderly and hard of hearing. Although I am the second oldest, I am not hearing impaired. Two of the men are and they don’t wear hearing aids, so many misinterpretations at our table try to pass for information. Sometimes, I take it upon myself to re-speak the words that didn’t make it safely from the speaker’s mouth to the hearer’s ear. My role can be peacemaker.
Believe me, these friends of mine are not old darlings going gently into that good night. Danny is quick tempered, volatile and certain. Once, he insisted despite all arguments to the contrary that when the clock changes, it springs back and falls forward. Clearly, tolerance has to be part of our generosity and mutual respect. While Danny’s moods are unpredictable, Doug’s responses are predictable. To Danny’s volatility he usually asks the question: “Did you take your medication today?”
Abe is the oldest. He walks with a cane because of diabetes. He can’t use sugar, and doesn’t drink coffee. He is well known in the Western Addition/Fillmore community for his strong convictions about Obama, the military, drug use, mistreatment of the poor, and with whom he will and won’t communicate. For a long time, I was one of those people to whom Abe would not speak. That changed, but we never allude to those earlier, unkinder times. Now we are tight. Some mornings, it is just Abe and Alison at a table. If I am not there, I hear he has asked about me, and I am always told whether or not he has been in.
Perhaps my part in our foursome is to be a willing ear, as Danny talks prodigiously about his life from childhood through yesterday. For Doug, I can give advice, explain form letters when asked, and interpret newspaper headlines that seem problematic on first reading. For Abe, I am a source of updates on motion pictures I have seen, the buyer of breakfast and a reliable presence, expressing concern for his physical wellbeing and interested in his daily plans.
Clearly we four have become attuned to each other, and we give each other a daily dose of feeling recognized, seen and understood. On Christmas, the day after – on any day, that is one big life-enhancing gift.