Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Safe Place

Tonight, during the tea break at Bowls, I sat next to a man named Trevor who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. He smiles. he looks at me when I ask questions--watches my forehead, then my eyes. His face searches, and then he answers, sometimes with the same responses over and over.

Each time, I give him a thumbs up and smile wide. Trevor returns the thumbs up to me.

Around us, older men and women drink their tea, take small bites of their biscuits. The heating in the church hall is on. Strong. Tonight, we are forecasted a freeze.

In a few minutes, when we all rise from our chairs and play the second hour of Bowls, the subtle teasing begins. If I am playing well, it's "Let's buy the American a ticket back to his own country." If I am playing poorly, it's "Square woods tonight, oy ay?" And then a chuckle.

A chuckle that is safe.

Safe for a man like Trevor.

Safe for a man like me.

Safe for a whole army of the elderly who gather here each Thursday to send a ball down an indoor lawn mat, fully knowing that with each bowl, they affirm their belief in the power of life moving on. The power of themselves, to keep believing in the beauty even after knees are replaced, bones are mended, brains slowly fail.

They gather like a crowd around a fire on a cold night camping. They warm their hands on the hearth of camaraderie and fun. And I'm grateful to tag along, a few decades early, and be a part of their circle.