Today for my life list, I set a goal to scour the house and throw away/donate to charity exactly 20 things - declutter a bit - and I did. But that's not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about the old man.
At about 4:00, there was a knock at the door. My son answered it - I was on the couch reading Gone With the Wind - and I heard a man say, "Can I speak to your mother?" We live along a fairly busy street. People come to the door a lot: kids selling stuff, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons.
I relieved my son at the door, and the man - I figured him to be in his seventies - well dressed, well mannered - started by showing me his proof of military service. He said he was walking down my street and he was weary. As he thumbed through his wallet, I assumed he was going to show me it was empty of cash and ask for bus fare. Instead, he said, "Can you call the police for me? I want to go home to Arcadia. I figure they'll throw me in jail for the night, but then they'll give me a ride home. Which is good, because I've been walking a long time, and these cars on this street are going so fast. And I'm cold."
Of course I said I'd call, but then I faced the question, Do I let him in? I decided I would. He perched on the edge of my couch as I called my local police to explain the situation. The cop who answered said, "Where is he now?"
"In your house?"
"You let a TOTAL STRANGER into your HOUSE?"
Well, when he put it THAT way, it didn't sound so good. But the day my son knocked in our front door a month back with one swift kick, I lost any semblence of a false sense of security.
I attempted to make conversation with him. Far from being a threat, he was very polite, eager to talk about his years working for the Welfare office, not so eager to talk about how he came to be wandering down my street because - I soon realized - he didn't quite remember.
As I offered him a Coke, I had to chuckle: Here I was, reading Gone with Wind, which is set in an era when - if a complete stranger stopped at your home - you didn't just call the cops and offer him a soda. You fed him your best food and gave him a place to sleep for the night. Now we have to struggle with our conscious when we want to help what appears to be a befuddled elderly man for fear it's a hoax. And it could have been. Believe me, if my mother is reading this, I'm going to get a worse lecture than I got from that cop.
Anyway, the police came, took him outside, and talked to him for about 20 minutes before driving off with him.
I'm not sure how this relates to my life list, other than to say that it was the most interesting thing to happen to me all day.