I was lonely and you visited me

Mar 21, 2002

Little Anna and I were out for a jog yesterday, Anna perched in the baby jogger and me dressed in my new Asics running shorts. As we rolled along Old Fayetteville Road, we came upon an elderly man pushing an empty wheelchair. I stopped briefly to answer his question about where the road went, and then ran on. I got to thinking that the man was probably from the Willow Springs retirement home, about a mile back, and so I looped around and returned to him. We chatted again, and he mentioned he was out for his first walk in months, trying to strengthen his 81-year-old legs. He said he was a bit dizzy, so I told him I’d walk back with him; as we wheeled along the road, I learned his name (Sam Childrey), his birthplace (Virginia) and birthdate (October 31, 1920) and occupation (tobacco farmer and cotton mill worker). He never married, and he came to Willow Springs because his sister is there. We stopped at a bus stop for him to rest, and before I ran on I asked if Anna and I could come visit him again. Yes, he drawled, he’d like that. And he likes Fig Newtons.

I’ve been wanting to visit the nursing home across the street from our apartment complex for months. Anna and I did walk over one sunny fall day and chatted with a few old fellas sitting and watching the construction of a new office building along the creek.

One Christmas day back in Idaho, my parents loaded me and the brothers into the station wagon and drove to a nursing home. ”We’d like to visit someone who doesn’t have family here today,” my dad said to the receptionist at the home. ”Oh, everyone’s got someone already,” she answered. Skeptical, mom and dad led us down the hallway into the cafeteria, where one old lady sat by herself. We gathered around her, and began a relationship that lasted years. Joanna brightened with each of our visits, and we brothers learned a lesson about defeating loneliness.

Anton Zuiker

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