I couldn’t sleep, someone haunted my dreams. He came from my past, several years before. I met him when I was in the computer business, a customer. Everyone does things their not proud of, for oh so many reasons. Mine was trying to build a business. Some of us have no business . . . in business, that’s me.
The man of my visions was seventy plus years of age, his name was Bill. He was retired. A friend, his brother in-law had introduced us. Bill lived in a trailer park off a busy street. I remember driving to the trailer park. It sat across from a large cemetery, white markers lined the road. And a feeling of sadness entered my thoughts, I didn’t know why, not then.
I turned onto his drive. Shabby trailers lined the pot holed pavement one after the other. I drove by his trailer there wasn’t a place to park. I continued on, maybe there was another further on, there wasn’t. Turning around, I thought about leaving and running for cover of home, but Bill was standing by his car, a faded green Oldsmobile sat rusting in the drive. Bill stood motionless, probably wondering if I was there for him. I stopped and opened my window. “Are you Bill England,” I asked? “Yes,” he said.
His expressionless face never changed. Dressed in faded worn wrinkled clothes, long gray wisps combed over a vacant field of hair. His graying starchy bristles dusted his mouth. A weather beaten face supported a sandpaper growth of several days.
He wanted me to park next to his car, a spot half the size for comfort. Slowly I threaded my GMC into the opening. When I opened my door, I tapped his car, leaving me just enough room to squeeze my oversized frame out of the cab. It felt like peeling a wrapper from an old piece of bubble gum. I really needed someone to push on one end and pull on the other, but eventually I got out. “Nice day,” I said, trying quickly to forget the embarrassing moment. “Yea, I suppose,” he said.
In my mind I secretly hoped I didn’t mark his old rust bucket. At least he didn’t go over and start examining the car closely. To be honest, I was more concerned that I might have dinged the paint on my door, crappy green on black, great.
There five minutes and things were already going south. Sometimes we cherish what we value, but more precise I was concerned how I could possibly make enough from this old man to make all my trouble worth it? Not nearly enough, although I had to keep telling myself I was building something for the future, a business . . . right.
His trailer was from another time, built many years ago. It was made from dull sheets of aluminum, flat silver patched with gray bondo. Pre-cast steps led directly to the door. Once this trailer might have had designs of sitting at some exotic lake setting, but this was no lake property.
All the trailers sat intertwined with each other, merely additions to an odd sort of family. Strangers brought together out of necessity, they call this low income housing.
Bill showed me in. A black and white TV blared from the corner of his kitchen table. A computer took up the rest of the dinning space. A pull down light blocked my view and any traffic in and out of the kitchen. A half filled pan of water sat on the stove, next to it was an old round edged pink Fridgair.
Covering the doorway leading to the hallway was a sheet of opaque plastic. The entryway led to two bedrooms, one was cluttered odd stuff and had not an inch left to walk. An old window air conditioner sat on the bed.
Bill was an alcoholic, that’s what Joe said. But that was long ago. Once married, no longer a father. I wondered how anyone could no longer be a father. Children die, but I was curious so I asked Joe. He said Bill had treated his wife badly . . . abuse. She ran off with the kids. Joe said, it was his fault, he didn’t deserve them. That was twenty years ago. The kids stayed away and he never bothered to see them. Joe said it was for the best.
Bill was lonely, I knew that instantly. I was there to see if I could help him, to fix the problems with his computer. It was so old, it wasn’t worth it. But what’s worth to anyone, especially when you’re on a fixed income . . . Retirement is such a cruel joke.
Two saw horses sat in his living room, holding up a piece of plywood. Stacked on top were books, pictures and papers. On the wall was a framed picture of a group of sailors standing on a ship. Everyone wore their dress blues. Bill pointed to himself.
He had served on a supply ship in the south pacific. He said he never saw action with the Japanese, but I know he wasn’t far away, for on a map I knew that is right where all the action was. He hopped from island to island, right behind the fighting, delivering supplies.
His small group’s historian had just passed away and Bill was sent all the historic records. He had boxes everywhere. Every five years they had a reunion and he never missed a one. He loved the navy, but I wonder if he had left a big part of himself there long ago.
Now Bill was the editor of a quarterly news letter for those boys that were still alive. “Bill what do you want the computer for,” I asked? “I bowl in a league. I want to keep the scores for them.”
He showed me a text document he used to manually compute their scores each week. He showed me his financials. He had merely hundred thousand in a mutual fund, the type that paid earned interest once a year. His earnings for the year amounted to just eleven thousand, interest with social security. This year he planned on going to a bowling tournament in Florida. He had it figured to the penny.
Bill told me he had bought a plot in a cemetery. He said he had just made the final installment. He reached above the TV, pulling down a picture, brilliant white markers all in row, each one the same, cars driving by out front. Then I knew they were the ones I had driven by that first day. Everything was set.
Joe introduced me to his neighbors, Walter and Millie. They were having computer problems, something about a modem. One afternoon I went to see them at their home. They lived in a small ranch house across from the airport. I remember the roar of planes every few minutes. It was like that all day and night. Their yard was fenced. A sign at the front door said to go to the back. I entered the gate and Maxwell bounded around the corner. His bark proceeded his old framed beagle body. He old and grouchy and could hardly move. But he barked at anything and everything. He was Walter and Millie’s child. Maxwell’s bark was the worse thing about him. He wasn’t mean, if anything, he would sniff you to death.
Walter and Millie were in their early to mid-seventies. Millie was tied to a wheel chair and had cataracts and was almost blind. The doctors couldn’t do anything more for her. Walter walked with a cane and still was able to get around pretty good. Still they had their sense of humor and never expected anything for nothing.
I knocked on the door and they invited me into their home and their life. “Hi I heard you have some computer problems,” I said. “Yes, we need to get the internet going. Millie wants to receive emails from our Grandson, Steven. He is away at college. He is an engineering student.”
It’s odd how the elderly attach to youth, but they do. I don’t know why? It was obvious that the elder couple found great joy in their grandson. Is this what all that’s left?
Dreams are yours to Share
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