“Nobody talks to me,” the old man said.
I was visiting my father-in-law at a retirement complex, and I was off the lobby, editing a novel on my laptop. It had been a quiet corner; no one had pestered me. Though I did interrupt my work to pet the various dogs that people walked out the back door.
“Nobody,” he said.
He folded himself into a nearby chair and proceeded to pester me.
Incessantly pester me.
I saved my work and figured I’d give him a handful of minutes and then he’d nod off, as men with as many lines on their face as old tree bark tend to do. Except he didn’t nod off. He talked and talked and talked. I’d heard about the guy from my husband, who had taken his dad to lunch. I had stayed behind both to work and to give Bruce some time alone with his dad.
But this ancient dude—Mark—wouldn’t leave me alone. I moved my computer to another room, and he followed me. I went upstairs to the “library” and hooked my computer up to an outlet. He found me there several minutes later.
I saved my work and let him talk.
“I get lonely,” he said. “Nobody’ll talk to me.” He went on to tell me that he’d given his car to his grandson, and that said grandson would be picking him up in the morning to drive him to a funeral.
I learned he had two loves in his life. A wife who’d died many years ago, and a girlfriend he met at the retirement center and wished he would have married. She’d died several months back. He carried an eight by ten picture of her in a tote bag to show people. He missed them both, yet he counted himself lucky and blessed to have known and loved these two women. A few days ago…the girlfriend would have been eighty-eight; he got his grandson to take him to the cemetery so he could put a dozen roses on her grave.
He worked as a welder with my father-in-law, traced their association back more than sixty hears, recalled when my father-in-law took a swing at him ‘cause he was wearing a Kennedy for President button. Yet he’s not a Democrat anymore. Not really a Republican. Doesn’t trust Hillary. Doesn’t like Trump. Would’ve voted for Cruz…Biden in a pinch. Figured Sarah Palin would have made a “helluva” president. Smart and pretty; someone to pay attention to.
I learned he liked mystery books. We enjoyed the same authors…J.A. Jance, Stuart Woods, Lee Goldberg, and Robert Crais. He said he was particularly fond of authors that only hinted at bedroom scenes, leaving it to the imagination rather than blatantly describing sex acts; he said the better authors could tease you. I promised the next time Bruce came to visit his dad, I’d pass along some of the mysteries I was done with.
He asked what kind of music I liked. I said classical and country. He serenaded me with a few moldy oldies I’d not heard before, then ended it with Good Ol Rocky Top, which I had heard of. His voice wasn’t bad.
I eventually escaped, but not before he became winded and happy. He still wasn’t ready to nod off.
“Thanks for talking to me,” he said.
It wasn’t so much he needed someone to talk to. It’s that he needed someone to listen.
I think I’ll find a way to slip him into my next murder mystery. I've got just the spot for him in sleepy Spencer County, Indiana, someone for my sheriff to interact with. I think I'll put him in the opening scene...and no, not as the victim.