Attack of the Old Man Boobs

Friday, September 22, 2006
Down the hall from my apartment, an older gentleman (mid 70s) lives by himself. My friends and family have known him, up to this point, as the “old naked guy across the hall”. This is a pretty accurate description of him as he is (a) old, and (b) often only clad in shorts and socks. For those of you trying to visualize him, he’s about 6’, white hair, glasses, a hairy chest and back (white/grey hair of course), and the beginning of old man boobs accentuated by a gold chain and cross that hangs between them. Let’s call him Bob.

“Bob” is a very nice gentleman. He has on a couple of occasions brought over a new loaf of bread from the health food store that he doesn’t think he’ll be able to eat before it goes bad. Why he buys so much bread when it’s just himself eating it is beyond me but it’s very sweet nonetheless. When he’s at home, you can count on his door being open allowing everyone to see into his apartment (and of course, view the near nakedness) – because of the location of his apartment, it’s the hottest spot in the building. He’ll pop his head out of the door and start talking as you’re carrying your extremely heavy load of laundry down the hall – conversations that often last 10 minutes and you barely say two sentences. He’s even asked me to clean his apartment for him a couple of times when his friend’s wife was unable to (they come over every week to do his laundry and clean up for him, and he pays her $40). However, I’ve always found excuses to say no. To be fair, I barely keep my own apartment in a livable state let alone try and clean someone else’s place.

We haven’t talked much lately as, I’m ashamed to admit it, I’ve been trying to avoid him. As nice as he is, I hate feeling cornered and not being able to make my escape. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggerated description of talking to him, but you know what it’s like when you’re not in the mood to talk and the other person just doesn’t pick up on it.

Well, he had a bit of a crisis the other day and my feelings towards him have changed. I was coming back from the laundry room, carrying my usual heavy load when…SURPRISE…a balding white haired head popped out of “Bob”’s apartment. As he walked with me down the hall to my door, I rolled my inner eye. Oh god, here we go, I thought. I turned to look at him as he started telling me once again about his friend’s wife and was shocked. “Bob” was on the verge of tears. His voice started to crack and he was sniffling. It seems that his friend, whom he’s known for 50 years fell down that morning after a bout of dizziness, however, he had said that he was fine and went out. “Bob” had just called the house to see how his friend was doing. The friend answered and then yelled at “Bob” that he hadn’t finished supper yet and then hung up on him. “Bob” was scared. According to him, he and his friend hadn’t had a cross word in the 50 years they’ve known each other and now “Bob” was worried (ie: terrified) that there was something seriously wrong (he tried to call back again but kept getting a busy/off the hook signal). He didn’t know what to do and needed someone to talk to.

I tried reassuring “Bob” that the wife would call if anything was seriously wrong and perhaps his friend was having a bad day or had received some bad news. This seemed to help and he calmed down a bit. We talked (ie “Bob” talked) for about 15 minutes and I found out he had worked on the pipelines for a number of years when he was young until a bad accident hurt his back/neck (he almost died) and then worked for the parks department. He became a bit emotional again after reminiscing and told me that he only has 2 family members in the city – a nephew and his wife and they live on the other end of the city. I was sure he had told me his son lived in the city a while ago but now was not the time to try and correct him. He almost started crying again when I told him that if he ever needed anything all he had to do was ask (I didn’t have the heart to say “unless it means cleaning your apartment”).

As he ambled back down the hallway to his apartment, his socks building up static on the carpet and his gold chain swinging between his old man boobs, I realized something. “Bob” is indeed a very sweet man but very alone. Lonely. As near as I can tell, the only time he gets a visitor is those Sunday visits and holidays (although I could be wrong). I felt very sad for him. As I closed the door behind me, I thought of Christmas. I suddenly had this urge to bake for him – this is NOT a good idea as I’m not a very good baker (I can cook, but not bake – no patience). Our extended family is now quite large and we no longer buy presents for everyone, instead we’ve opted to draw names at Thanksgiving. Considering that this will save me a few dollars this year, I think I will do something nice for “Bob” and perhaps even invite him to Christmas dinner with our family (Dave…is that ok? I’ll make sure he wears clothes…). However, he’s allergic to cats so this might not be a good idea… I feel very blessed that I’ve got a good size extended family and a few good friends. The holidays are a time for sharing and thinking of others (although this should be done all year round). Hopefully, someone will do the same for me when, in my later years, I’m hanging out of my apartment door annoying my younger neighbours as they try to do their laundry.

EDIT: His friend appears to be fine and they talked later that evening.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

What a wonderful story! And how giving of you and your family to invite him for Christmas. I'm so glad that his friend was okay, too.

I pretty certain he will not treat you to the sight of his moobs at Christmas dinner.

Wandering Coyote said...

I'm so glad you were so sweet and civil with him. Seniors are so vulnerable and we really need to look out for them.

Mick Gordon said...

Wow, you are describing my interactions as well. Must be something about getting old and lonely. Yes, it would be hard to be to harsh on the old guy.

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