Lou, my neighbor across the road for many years down in Florida worked at NPR in sales and drove 20 miles a day to do so. The work came easily I'm sure for this ex adman from New York, but the driving day in and out probably cost him dearly at 67 years of age. He was standing in his kitchen and what happened is not exactly clear, but he either had a stroke or lost his balance and hit his head on the floor and started internal bleeding. His thirty plus son who was staying down here for a time applied first aid breathing and Lou's wife called an ambulance and he was rushed to the hospital where the choice 'operate or die' was given and the former chosen. Not moneyed, and not from a big family, the next three months must have been a private hell for them. Rehab, hospital, back to rehab, son and wife splitting days at the hospital, hoping for the best, but tired and worn out. You never realize how alone you are until something like that happens, that is if you really don't have good back-up. As neighbors we could offer help, but nobody is rich here, and we all can't really give that much time or money whether we are well meaning or not.
Six months later Lou is back and in a wheel chair and the son is here on and off and the wife looks like she lost weight, not unattractively though. The grind of caring for him I saw was still taking its toll. He wasn't a big man but still a dead weight. The wife said to me they need a helper but can't afford it.
I must mention I've written about Lou before. Some nights we would stare down the street and it looked like a road leading to heaven with the sky all different colors and doing its thing. We talked and watched and had our moment or two. Other times Lou would offer, along with others, advice on my previous car that I called Irving cause it was old and grey.
In the last month or so somehow they are getting some help. A heavy set nice lady in her 40's wheels Lou around and takes him occasionally for walks. She walks and pushes. It's been hot so they don't go too far. I bought a new car so one time I stopped Lou and we discussed it a bit. He was surprisingly verbal and 'with it' although you could see he was weak. I never expected to see him get this far. Another time I was talking about the management and how I was disrespected and Lou made a fist and said they need some of that. True.
Yesterday, it was hot and I went for a swim. Swimming has really held my body together with my own various challenges. It's a discipline that forces me to perform and one doesn't have to give in to certain weaknesses. Anyhow, on my way back I saw Lou and the lady pushing him around and his wife getting into a car. His wife said she had planned to do something but her son wasn't here to help. At that point I walked to Lou and then he asked me how I was doing. I said 'keeping going.' With all the spiritual reading and practicing and thinking I do you would think there would be more to say. But that's what came out of me, I'm keeping going. I didn't want to also appear exuberant or depressed so it seemed neutral. But it also was true. It was all I was sure of. I knew at the very least I was 'keeping going.'
Then I asked Lou how he was doing. His answer was he was 'doing.'
I think Lou outdid me. His answer was briefer and more succinct. Two men who liked to think, wonder, look at the sky, talk about things were left with one word to describe their lives.