Slice of life stories on family, sports, losing, and life
If you look closely, the man pictured below donning a light gray winter cap, brown jacket and khakis was about to be turned down for a dose. On MLK day this week, the man didn’t know he needed an appointment, he just saw the big signs for vaccines here in Hartford and heard the AM radio talk about it, so the man walked 4 blocks in blustery conditions and waited in line. The nurse coordinator gave him a website, a phone number and an apology, but then asked him to move along with 100 circling the building. She did what she had to do I suppose. That man is 83 and against my better judgment, I left my spot to find him. Wasn’t too difficult if I’m being honest, since each step took him great effort and obvious pain, plus I was already feeling out of place amidst the 75 and up crowd, even though the state had okayed part-time teachers. That man and I found a lonely bench and with the magic of the iphone and a little patience, I registered the man for an appointment for an hour later at the Pratt & Whitney drive-up location. The man didn’t have a car anymore and quipped in the moment, “What do I have to do today,” so I gave him a ride and changed my own appointment slot. The man had his wits about him but admitted he had felt overwhelmed lately. He talked about how “my Janie would do all this,” his angel until passing away 5 years ago to cancer. The man cried a little when he said that, but he smiled telling me how she used to make the best monte cristo. “I can still taste it,” he said. The man told me the story 3x on that ride. But I didn’t mind. The man, Jerry Wilder, thinks he retired in 2006, same year as my dad. He grew up in Brooklyn on Franklin Street but spent most of his adult life in greater Hartford. He and Janie had 3 kids and 5 grandkids who mostly live in the Midwest, but his daughter is nearby but busy. “She teaches the kids who have the special needs, autism, not sure which grade. I think it’s kindergarten.” I asked the man what he used to do. “I was a neonatologist. Was actually a pretty good ball player back in the 60s….had a call-up with the Kansas City Athletics, but I couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield enough.” So you became a doctor I said. “I guess so,” Jerry said. That man was my Moonlight Graham on Monday, on MLK day, when we think about dreaming a little and not about what is but what can be and sometimes what was. I’m glad I left my spot to give him a shot. Was my gain.