Juanita of Hillsboro Manor called and asked if the wise old man had taken his flu shot. “I do not know. Shouldn’t the Manor have a record of such as that?”
“We should but I cannot find a flu shot on there. Dr. Hassan says he got one. Anyway, Mr. Ford, he is bad sick. It acts like the flu. I wanted y’all to know how bad he is, because y’all are kind of all he has.”
My wife and I headed over there as soon as we could make arrangements and when we walked into his room, he was propped up in bed reading Henry V. “You must be feeling better, sir,” I said, “reading one of Shakespeare’s finest.”
He rasped and his voice was a pitch higher than normal, “Love this play, Dan. Imagine going up against such odds. Do you think Shakespeare ever got over his negative feelings for the
“I don’t know sir. Most non-Englishmen come off badly in the plays, right? Remember Sir Hugh in Merry Wives?” He started laughing but it became a deep, tight cough that could not deliver. “Want me to read to you, sir,” I asked.
“No, son. Thank y’all for coming. I was just thinking about your barbecue and your wife’s potato salad this morning. I have no appetite at all. Anyway, the food out here has no special touch to it. The cooks try, but they are limited in many ways.” Then he started coughing again and I poured him a glass of water.
Then his eyes fell back to the page and he said, “The French soldiers wanted their attire and their horses to look good on the outside, but there was no true soldiering on the inside. Dan, I am glad that God looks on the heart. I was thinking of that when y’all came in.”
Then he looked up and suddenly dozed off. He was smiling. My wife went for Juanita and she called the doctor. The wise old man seemed peaceful enough, even though his breathing was shallow and labored. Juanita said, “He had been reading on that big old book for days. That one and the Bible and that prayer book were the only books he fooled with for the last two weeks.
He opened his eyes when Dr. Hassan came in. “Hello, Tiki,” he said softly to the doctor, who replied kindly, “Are you feeling not well, sir?”
“I am better. My friends have come.” The doctor gave him a shot and studied his chart. He said, “Perhaps this congestion shall soon not be so. I shall the humidifier order for room.”
When Dr. Hassan and Juanita left, the wise old man said, “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Ford, Thank you for caring. I know I will be passing on soon and I fully expect to wake up with Our Lord. He looks on the heart. I am glad and sad at the same time about that. He died so the sad part gets thrown away, you know, that part of our hearts that we are ashamed of. I am afraid most of us still carry the sad part, though. The glad part, the part that is atoned, redeemed, saved is what he sees as our whole heart. If I do not see you again, my admonition to you is that you stop judging other people by what you see on the outside. Just do not judge, period. There is more to people than we can possibly see. Father Muñoz has my wishes. Love y’all.”
On the way home, my wife said, “He is Catholic?”
“Who knows,” I replied, “who knows?”