I used to take the same route home from school everyday. I would walk past this old, mysterious, stone house. I would never see who lived there. The same light in the living room would be on- day and night. I once peeked in the window and saw a white grand piano and lavish furnishings then a man appeared in the room and I ran! I wondered who he was and what he was like. Was he mean? Who played the piano? Did he have kids? It was kinda spooky how the curtains were always drawn half-way and you could barely see in the place. I wondered why. I would always run past the house now because I thought the man was scarey.
Years later, I was asked to take care of an elderly gentleman who lived in my old neighbourhood. I was intrigued and I happily agreed. I drove up to find that very same and now older, mysterious, stone house. I couldn't believe it!
I later learned that the man I saw in the window at least 15 years earlier was the man I would be taking care of today. A fine Jewish man was he. Ab Walters was his name. I enjoyed his company every Saturday and Sunday for the last two of his remaining years on this earth. I made him the same thing everyday for lunch and dinner. Lunch consisted of boiled broccoli and potatoes and a piece of baked fish. Dessert was a must- usually a streudel of some sort served with hot, hot coffee. Dinner was soup and toast. Dessert, again, was a must. He had a real sweet tooth. I also had the privilege of preparing his Sabbath meal on Fridays when his son-in-law Gordon would join us at 7pm. We would light the candles, drink the sweet wine and I would even eat the gafelta fish. Mr. Walters was delighted! We would cling our glasses together and in unison say "La Hiehm", cheers in Yiddish.
One day I watched him sleep soundly during his afternoon nap at 3pm. I wondered what he dreamt about since he would make the odd grumble or squeak in his sleep. Suddenly, I was captivated by this vision. As I looked closer, my eyes were transfixed. His wrinkles were gone and he was a middle aged man like the picture I had seen of him downstairs. I blinked again and there he was. A seasoned grandfather who was getting tired. The wear and tear on his body was catching up with him. In his 90's, Ab was doing well. His mind was clear and his overall health was good. I couldn't help but wonder though how long my friend would continue to be around to entertain me with his humour, song and wit. I had grown quite fond of Ab and his antics. Singing was one of our favourite past-times together. I think he liked the fact that I was a young person who had an appreciation for Al Jolson- thanks to my father. He would take my hands and dance with me in his living room- he would shift from side to side but never move his feet. We'd laugh often.
Our time together would go by so quickly. Before I knew it, the evening was here and our night routine was underway. He was all about routines. I could still remember each step clearly- he would wash up, change into his "bed-clothes" which consisted of a pair of long johns, an undershirt, socks, a crisp white dress shirt and suit jacket. I kid you not. I would tuck him in like a little child. The blankets had to be tucked snuggly under his feet and around his body so he wouldn't catch a draft.
He would always end our day together with a thank you.
Thank you Mr. Walters. Rest in Peace my friend.