The Man with the Handlebar Mustache

mustache man

(photo by Darrell Miller)

Ascending the escalator towards Gate 224 was a gentleman in a pin-striped navy suit jacket, lemony linen shorts and boat shoes. We stood on the same line for the express bus.

He turned around, looking in the direction of hopefully soon-to-be oncoming buses, and said, “What do you think will come next, a 162 or 163T?”

There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye, as if we were playing a game. His white handlebar mustache and round greenish-brown-tinted sunglasses added to his mystique.

I smiled and said, “I don’t know. I leave it to you.”

“I predict it will be a 162: they usually follow the 144.”

He had the mien of George Plimpton or Peter O’Toole: the height, the long limbs, the carriage, the comfort in his own skin. Underneath the jacket he wore a button-down dress shirt and delicately patterned pink bow tie.

Within five minutes, the 162 bus barreled through. The gentleman turned around at me and smiled. I smiled back.

“You were right!” I said.

No smugness in his victory, only playfulness and fun.

I wondered about him—did he own a yacht, why did he live in New Jersey, why would a man like him take the bus?

A young man standing between us on line turned to me and said, “Do you want to sit together?”

“No, we don’t know each other,” I said.

The gentleman exited the bus in Hackensack. I didn’t picture him as a Hackensack resident. He seemed more a Cherry Hill sort, but that’s another bus line. A Billy Joel line ran through my head, “Who needs a house out in Hackensack, is that all you get for your money?”

People continue to amaze me. I suppose that’s a good thing.

 

The Bow

As I wheeled Mom towards the day room, Raymond swept his arm across his waist and bent his head slightly in a bowing gesture. Then he started to whistle.

“I can’t do it,” he said, only whistling for a moment.

“It’s not so easy to do,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

He smiled brightly at me as Mom and I moved towards the day room / dining room.

“Where are you going?” he said.

“In there,” I said, and he followed us.

I sat next to Mom at her designated dining table.

Raymond looked at us, smiling, “It’s lovely – this,” and he continued on towards other tables.

Raymond was a professional dancer. The daughter of another resident witnessed the bow and said, “He’s a real gentleman.”

“Yes, he is,” I said.

I can’t remember the last time a man bowed to me. It’s not something that happens every day, especially not in the 21st century.

One of the nurses told me Raymond used to dance with Fred Astaire.

He also likes to go from room to room. When he enters Mom’s room sometimes, he asks, “Is this okay?”

I tell him yes.

I wish I knew what he was trying to say. It’s the same way I feel about Mom.

“Mom, I was in the doctor’s office the other day and you know what he had?” I said.

“No,” she said.

“Pussy willows. Remember them?”

“No.”

As a kid, I marveled at the furry texture of the bud;, they seemed half-animal / half-plant to me.  Where did Mom find such a miraculous creation? 

“They have a long thick stem and little oval blossoms that are silky like kittens. You used to bring them home and put them in a vase,” I said.

“I don’t remember,” she said.

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photo by Liz West

Sometimes I wish she would.

 

*Pseudonyms are used for all residents and staff at the Actors Home.