Page 10 - Scene Magazine 44-12 December 2018
P. 10

It was Christmas Eve morning. As I was shoveling the snow in my driveway, which was heavy due to a slight warm- up, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ray. Then it happened, I felt a slight pop in my back. I spent the rest of the day on a heating pad, still stressing about how I was going to tell Ray.
A month earlier, I sent an email to the Activities Director at the assisted living center. I explained to her that I had been inspired, by a sermon I had heard in church, to give a gift of my time – a couple hours a week – to a gentleman at the center who is alone and doesn’t have any visitors. The director was moved by my offer and said she might have a gentleman in mind for my gift. We set up a meeting for the next day, November 26, 2008.
I arrived at the center and was greeted by the director in the lobby. We ex- changed introductions and then headed for her office. Along the way, we stopped by the activities room and encountered several of the residents working on decorations for the upcoming Christmas parade. My attention was directed to an elderly gentleman at a table, fumbling with a roll of plastic tape. “Ray,” she said, “I’d like you to meet someone.” I reached out and shook his hand. That is when I met Ray.
Later, as we sat in the director’s office, she said, “Ray is the gentleman that I have in mind for your gift. He is pretty much alone but likes to keep to himself.” I asked, “Tell me a little about him.” I want- ed to know if he had been married, did he have children, what were some of the things he liked to do? She didn’t have too much information to share other than he was a widower, had worked in the paper industry, once owned a dance studio, and liked to fish and enjoys nature.
As we continued to talk, Ray sud- denly appeared at the office door in his motorized chair. “I understand you enjoy fishing,” I said. With a wry smile and a twinkle in his eye, Ray said, “Yep.” I told him I also loved to fish and Ray asked me what lakes I fished. It was a brief conver- sation but it was a start. I found some common ground.
“Maybe when I have more time, I could come back and we can visit and talk about fishing. Would you like that?” Again, the twinkle returned to his eyes as he said, “Yep.” We set a date for the following week.
I began visiting Ray every Tuesday, which usually resulted in a game of Gin Rummy in the activities room. While my intention was to give the gift of my time to a lonely person, I also had another mo-
tive, kind of a “hidden agenda.” I wanted to write a story, maybe a book, about the experience. I wanted to meet an inter- esting person with a colorful life story – a story he would be willing to share.
Other than a whopper of a fish story and the fact that Ray was instrumental in developing the coating used in Polaroid film, he was not willing to share much about his life. His standard answers, when asked a question, were usually “yep” and “nope.” Nor was Ray too concerned about my life. It didn’t matter to him what I did, how much money I had, or where I lived. He was delighted in knowing I would come and visit him every Tuesday.
However, I began to have doubts about continuing my visits. I was still working full time and sometimes had to put off meeting with a client so I could visit Ray. And he didn’t talk much, so my book project, which I dubbed “The Gift,” was not going anywhere. My desire to want this man to reveal his life story – an incredible life story – was starting to con- sume me.
December 18 was a typical cold winter day. Even though we got several inches of snow the day before, the worst was yet to come. The forecast was for about 10.” As I drove to the assisted living

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