Nat and his wife Betty, live in the apartment across from the elevator. Depending on the season, there is a different door ornament. Right now, there are brown and ivory corn husks hanging.
They are a couple pushing their 80's, and they have been married for over 50 years. Betty is always impeccably dressed and her clothes often match her bright blue eyes. She is the epitomy of a lady.
Nat wears a Fedora, a suit, and keeps himself busy with his daily business, whatever that may be. I'm sure that the whole neighbourhood knows him.
I see Nat every day, he lives two units away from me, and every time I met him, it's for the first time.
Nat, has Alzheimers. He is the most sweetest man in the world, and every time I meet him, he makes my day. He tells me the same damn stories every single time. I've heard stories about his three sons. They are all either in trucking or mining, but for the life of him, he can't remember the names of their wives. But he knows that they are good women, and they have lovely grandchildren, but he can't remember their names, either.
Every time I meet Nat, it's a new introduction. The gentlemanly handshake, the lift of the Fedora. (My heart melts!) He introduces himself, and asks me my name. Once in a while he remembers to check his list that he keeps in his left breast pocket, and looks for my name. He'll tell me that he's got me on his list, but he's so sorry...he just doesn't remember meeting me...although, he loves my teeth, and they look awfully familiar! (Anybody who knows my gappy-toothed smile might know what he's talking about!)
Meeting Nat, is like being Bill Murray in Ground-Hog Day. It's always the same, but always a little different.
One story that Nat keeps telling me is about the days that he was a manager at the mines in Atacoca. He got the job straight out of University of Toronto Engineering, back in the 1950's. Worked there for years. One day the alarms went off and as it turned out, one of the workers got caught in the mining machinery.
The alarms were clanging...Nat got called. The poor man was dead as a door nail and flat as a pancake (Nat's words) Nat went to this worker's Wife and personally told her the news that her husband was dead, and how sorry he was.
What strikes me about this story, is that I have heard it probably about 10 times. Nat doesn't remember his daughter-in-laws names, or what they do, he doesn't remember his grandchildrens names. He doesn't remember my name, although he sees me very regularly and we spend a lot of time together.
But he remembers this death. And I know he has somehow, always felt responsible for this.
And he strikes me as such a Gentleman.
Nat, in the midst of his Alzheimers, turned a really bad evening, into an evening, that if I really think about it, brings tears to my eyes, and makes a terrible evening all worth it.
Remember this night?
Well, Nat saved the night.
Mainly by distracting us. He could have told us anything, we were just so not interested in continuing the argument.
I remember one of the questions I asked him that night, was what was the secret to a happy marriage?
His answer was something like this:
.they always had enough money
.he feels he made a contribution in life
.every night he goes to bed thinking about Betty
It kind of put everything into perspective. And when I asked him how long he had been married. He said he couldn't remember. But it didnt' really matter.
I hope I have that kind of marriage. (without the Alzheimers.)