Monday, August 10, 2015
Today I am grateful for flashbacks. No, I’m not in rehab fighting the demons, though those who do are my heros. I’m talking about good-old flashbacks, to about 30 years ago when we first moved to Pennsylvania.
In the Midwest the streets run north-south/east-west, without all twists and turns needed to go around hills. When we moved here we had to hunt and peck our way around the country roads that changed names three times, although you never turned off of them. Once I found a grocery store that I could get to and from without throwing down bread crumbs like Hansel and Gretel, I stuck with it.
There was a high functioning, mentally handicapped young man, Matt, who would push my groceries to the car and unload them every single time I shopped. . .even if it was one bag. Matt liked to talk and the parking lot was his platform. “Hi, I’m Matt and I’m going to take care of you today.” Sweet.
When we returned from living in Jakarta, Indonesia for three years, it might as well have been 20, what with how everything had changed. We didn’t live in the same place and that store eventually closed and was too far away for us to shop at anyway. I often wondered what had happened to Matt.
Then I saw him a couple of years ago working in a thrift store, gabbing away in that same fun voice, his stage now the books and toys section. Imagine my shock when I got a tap on the shoulder, “Hi! Remember me? I’m Matt! I used to work at Clemens and I helped you with your groceries!” Perfect smile. Of course I remembered him.
He went on to tell me that his parents had died and he bounced around living in different places until someone took him into an apartment at their home and he was now living there free of charge. “Free! Can you believe that? Free!” I believe it. “But I help them with stuff like the yard and the animals. I really like animals! And the missus she can cook!”
Last night at the outdoor Souderton Concert Sundae series, I saw Matt again. He only has a few teeth left, but his smile is still perfect. He’s not a skinny kid anymore and must be close to 50 by now. He didn’t see me because he was close to the bandstand, wearing red shorts and a red shirt, dancing like a pro to every song the New Orleans, go-go jazz group played. Alone. And I’m not talking tapping his feet and moving his arms a little. . .or flailing out of control. . .I’m telling you he can DANCE! Well. . .sticking with the beat, then holding, spinning and step-kicking, virtually ignoring those who stopped by to dance with him, as though the music was trapped in his bones, trying to escape.
I was sorry I had forgotten the camera, but I’ll have the picture forever. How wonderful to feel so free. . .to dance by yourself with reckless-abandon in front of hundreds of people. . .and how great that I could watch from a distance and flashback so many years to the skinny kid who insisted on schlepping my groceries. “Hi, I’m Matt. I’m going to take care of you today, okay?” You bet, Matt. And you still are!