There once was this little old man, his body frail and hunched and confined to a wheelchair. He no longer spoke, only listened. His body no longer cooperated, but his eyes still sparkled from time to time. His body had not always been this way. He’d once been tall and lean, spry and brilliant. Time had played the dirtiest of tricks on him, forcing him into a life he would have never chosen for himself.
The little old man often visited nursing homes, slipping in and out according to his health that week or month. No one paid him much attention as he inched down the hall in his wheelchair. There was very little eye contact between he and the others…only a few could read his thoughts when no words were spoken. He crept along, his feet slowly pulling him towards his goal. And then, when he was sure no one was looking, because no one bothered him much anyway, he would reach up and pull the fire alarm.
On more than one occasion, his shaky fingers reached for the shiny red handle. On more than one occasion, he succeeded. Even though his body no longer worked, even though he couldn’t speak his feelings or needs or wants, and even though most thought he was no longer able to make and then carry out a plan, this man knew better. His mind still looked for the mischievous, and only he knew for a very long time that he was the reason for the scrambling of workers. Inside he chuckled, knowing that he’d still been able to stir the pot of life in his own way. It wasn’t meanness that made him stir…perhaps only a wish to be more than an old man in a chair.
That’s a true story about a man I knew. A man who hadn’t always been old. I think young people look at the elderly and think it’ll never happen to them, but those of us who have lived a little longer, know that it’s only a matter of time before we follow in their footsteps.
This story affected me deeply. It sounds like a tale about an impish person…but really it’s so much more. It’s a person still trying to live his life in his own way. Instead of giving up, he found a means, even when every odd was against him. He found a way to still live, make decisions and be in charge of his situation if only for a moment. It’s a tale about the mind, of how it can work even when the body shuts down. It’s a story about enduring until the end. It’s a tale about finding the joy in life even when life is at its worst.
This man’s spirit and mischievousness have been passed down through the blood lines. Two others have inherited every bit of his charm and spunk and wittiness. Ask me how I know…I know because I knew the little old man in the wheelchair. I know the nephew and great-nephew who inherited his fire. I knew this man, and his name was Bill.