This is Andy. He has been my neighbor for nearly 20 years, though only four of them have I actually known him. As a child I used to be frightened of him. I thought he was a grumpy old man. When I finally met him, I could tell instantly that I liked him. He was nothing like I remembered him from my childhood. He was genuine and had this real sweet side. He always seem to surprise me with his rustic witticisms. We were sort of an equal match, in that way. He and I were the strangest pair.
He was three of my lifetimes older than me, but for some reason we were so akin to each other. When we went out to eat, servers would remember us. Probably because they always wondered what our relationship was, and maybe also because he ate so slow.
A couple years ago, I bought Andy a watch for his birthday. It was no Rollex, but he loved it all the same. It never quite worked very well. It always showed the date as 2 days later than it was and as a result, he never knew what day it was. I told him I'd get him a new watch, but he never wanted another one. He loved that watch.
I remember the day that I took this portrait of him. I ask him if I could take his picture inside my house, and he agreed, as he always did. He was making a strange face. It's kind of the face I see when I think about him, on the verge of tears but you can't tell if he's happy or sad. He was a man that had so much joy but also so much sorrow. I could clearly see how lonely he was. I image it would be so hard to be alone at that age. I could see his face light up when he convinced me to go to lunch with him. So, it became hard to say no.
I taught him how to play rock-paper-scissors. He was so bad at it. He always cheated. I would choose scissors and several seconds later he would choose rock. I always thought it was funny and would tease him. I tried to re-teach him how to take the written driving test for the DMV, even though he shouldn't be driving anyway. I would ask him a question and he'd immediately try to distract me with a different topic. He never ended up retaking that test, even though we spent hours and hours going over the material.
One day he went to visit his family out of state. He called me often. and by often, I mean, very often. Then what started as a short trip, turned into a really long trip. He was gone for 5 months. When he finally returned, he seemed different. His family thought he may have had a small stroke. He started using a walker. He no longer came over every day. or at all. Soon he had a caretaker coming and staying with him.
It's been like this for about a year now. Every time I see him he's looking a little worse. Now he's hardly talking, and struggles to keeps his eyes on you. I know that when you make friends with old people, you should very well know what the outcome will be. It's still so sad to see it happen.
He is still wearing his watch though.