Russell 2.0

Mom and I ran into Russell today.

Mom ran up to him in Wal-Mart when she recognized him. Handsome man. Looks just like her daddy did. I wasn’t sure whether to throw myself into the giant banana stand or to go say hi.

I said hi, and when I said, “It’s nice to see you, Russell,” he was floored that I remembered not only meeting him two years ago, but his name.

I said there aren’t too many handsome men around here like him. He’s hard to forget.

A light bulb went off. “You’re the one who bought me dinner!”

I laughed and apologized since it was kind of a disaster. I said I remembered his wife was in the car, wondering where he was.

Mom asked how he’s doing now. She said she remembered he wasn’t feeling great the day we met him.

He didn’t mention the cancer this time. He did point to the cane in his cart and said that’s new since he saw us last. And he uses a walker around the house.

He still gets around better than Mom, although I had the grace not to say it.

He’s 91 now. His beloved wife of 68 years died three weeks ago. He went to the nursing home every day for over a year to feed her. But then she got too sick to eat, and he spent the last six months holding her hand.

His eyes welled with tears as he told us about this wonderful love, and how he quit his job 31 years ago to take care of her after she was in an awful car wreck, and how he doesn’t understand how life can keep happening without her.

Russell said they never had one fight in 68 years. (I thought about the Ubangis who can’t go 6.8 seconds without going ballistic on each other.) He said most couples fight about money and sex. He said he gave all the money to her and he wasn’t all that sexy, so apparently that’s the ticket.

We all laughed. We all choked back tears. It was a wonderful, wonderful stroke of fate that brought us together.

Mom and I are thrilled he’s still alive and in our ‘hood. (Well, not THIS dump, thank God. I wouldn’t want him here.)

We weren’t sure if we should force our number on him to stay in touch. We didn’t. I did tell him it did our hearts so much good to see him, and I hoped that maybe we gave him a little bit of a bright spot in his day.

He gave us each a big hug goodbye and he waved and smiled at us.

I know this was another “God moment.” I don’t know what to make of it. It’s like seeing my Grampy again. It also gives me hope that ___ Beach isn’t the most fucked-up city on the entire planet. Not a ton of hope. But some.

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