When I got to his house, I wasn't sure what to expect. The report I'd been given said he was 86 and suffering from Parkinsons. He was that - and so much more.
He's a retired truck driver, born and raised in North Carolina. Came up to Boston towards the end of the Depression, when his cousin found him a job cleaning floors at night. You can still hear the Southern cadence in his speech, though his drawl is long gone.
He was a proud son of the South, Southern Baptist to his toes. Then he fell in love with Mary, a beautiful Irish girl. She remained Roman Catholic; he remained Baptist, and they were married for 58 years.
He lost her 2 years ago.
He speaks of "his Mary" with such love, such longing. There are pictures of her all over the house.
When I was getting him ready for bed, I went to the closet to get his robe. All her clothes are still there, neatly hanging on her side of the closet.
He says she comes to him at night sometimes. I believe him.
When he was ready to go to bed, he held out his hands. I thought it was to help him into bed, but he took my hands and started to pray. He - then we - prayed the Lord's Prayer. Then he asked God for His blessings on me and my family, and went on to ask that God enter the hearts and minds of the Arab and Israeli leaders as yet another attempt is made to find peace. He asked God to be with his neighbor, whose mother is gravely ill. He prayed for the hungry and the homeless and for the sick at heart everywhere.
He touched me.
I'm scheduled to work Christmas Eve with him. He may be my living example of the Christmas story.