Rodney’s Gift

At the bus stop, I noticed a man watching me – he apparently noticed the mailer and said, “Are you going?” I replied, “I’d really like to attend, but I need to find coverage for some of my clients. I’ll see what I can pull off. How about you?”

It was just about then, that I noticed the hearing aid in his right ear. There was something familiar about him, but I wasn’t able to put my finger on what it was that seemed familiar about how mannerisms. “I’m supposed to be,” he said. I offered a handshake and shared my name, “Dennis.” He replied, “Rodney.” In addition to being curious as to why Rodney (his name didn’t click) stood out for me, I was curious about whether Rodney also had a hearing aid in his left ear, as well. I can’t even say why I gave this any thought, at all. Low frustration tolerance required that I ask, “Rodney, you seem familiar. Have we met before?“ He looked at me, smiled and said, “I think so, but if you’re who I think you are, I’m not surprised that you don’t remember me. If I’m right, we haven’t spoken since we were teens, Dude.” I know my mouth was hanging open. “Okay, help me solve this riddle, Rodney!” Rodney said, “Alright, Dennis. Did you know a dog named Champ? This would have been a long time ago. If you are the person I think you are, you’ll be able to tell me about the neighborhood, if not the street and the owner.” In my mind, I jumped back 40 years! Impossible! There was no way this guy could know about that dog – simply no way. I haven’t discussed Champ in many, many years. “Rodney, you are blowing my mind! I remember Champ, the family member who owned him and I could take you to the building that my Aunt lived in, on West 148th Street. What’s your connection? Who the heck are you?” “Dennis, do you remember a kid that you’d run into on the block when you were a child? You two would hang out occasionally?” Disbelieving what I was hearing, “Rodney! That would have been almost 40 years ago. I do recall the child, but was that you? You not only remembered my Aunt’s dog, but my name, as well? Rodney shook his head, grinned and said, “No, I wasn’t sure about your name, but I noticed the empty poop bag sticking out of your pocket. I remembered your Aunt and her dog because I saw them everyday for years. Your Aunt used to do this magic trick..” I gasped, “The one with the string? It was some kind of sleight of and thing where she made you think she could take pieces of cut string and make them whole in her mouth! Damn, you remember that? Rodney, I haven’t thought about that in forever!” My Aunt spoke well of you, Rodney.” Rodney said, “She was cool people. Champ was one of the only dogs I wasn’t afraid of, you know. Your Aunt went out of her way to make sure I wasn’t afraid of that big ‘ol dog!”

Rodney wasn’t aware of it, but he had given me a huge gift. I didn’t many family members who were alive and that are aware of how this relative had helped to shape my thinking about dogs, being responsible in our stewardship of pets, and the environment. My aunt, unlike so many people I was exposed to during my youth – loved dogs. I knew her comfort with dogs was considered unusual, by family standards, but she was one of my tribe, most definitely!

Rodney and I were only together a few minutes more before we separated, but I learned that he did wear a second hearing. His bilateral hearing loss occurred as the result of a childhood illness. He apparently made an effort to attend the Disability Expo. He was in the market for new hearing aids and was hoping to score a deal! I wasn’t certain that I could make it, but I would try. I promised Rodney that I’d reach out and let him know, either way.

With gratitude, I wondered aloud, “What else would come of this day?”


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