It was something that happened several years ago now; back when we lived in Poland. However, when the weather turns cold, my mind often runs back to that evening. It must have been in late October or early November. Sometime after 11pm. Roosevelta street in Poznan, was mostly an empty road at that hour.
It was cold. Nothing like it is in mid-winter, but it was cold.
We were in the car, stopped at a street light, when suddenly an old man began half running, half shuffling across the street. He was wrapped in a bedspread and wearing slippers. He sort of checked to make sure there were no trams coming and sort of made sure there were no cars, but mostly he was focused on the other side of the road and mostly he was oblivious to everything else. Rhonda noticed him first and felt we should do something to help him. So, Ania (a co-worker who we were taking home at the time) and I got out and walked over to the old man.
By now he was a block or so ahead of us. We watched him go from one doorway to the next, speaking into the apartment intercom systems, kicking at the doors, occasionally rapping on the storefront windows with a magnifying glass and peering intently inside.
When we caught up to him, I put my arm around him and steered back around in the direction from whence he had come. When Ania was finally able to get his attention and talk with him, he said that he lived in one of these buildings and that he was just trying to find which one. He said he was 83 years old. One end of the bedspread was tied to a wrist, the other to an ankle. Underwear and slippers completed the ensemble.
Cut to the chase…Through a series of guesses, deductions and near miraculous coincidences, Rhonda and Ania returned our friend to where he was living…about 3 blocks in the opposite direction from where he had been headed. When he found his house…where he lived alone…he was irked that no one let him in when he buzzed his room from the stoop outside. He shouted at the intercom that was calling his apartment, where of course nobody answered. I shook my head. We all felt badly for him, and for his situation.
His neighbor explained that our friend had been showing signs of Alzheimer’s for the past several months. So, obviously there was a rationale for his behavior. It was such an odd thing to digest; his image still clear in my mind as I think of it. And the capper; what made him the angriest, was that there was nobody home to fix the mess that he got himself into when he left the house. The idea that came to me was this: I wonder how often I have kicked at the door and grumbled at the night for shutting me out in the cold, when the decision to wander off into the darkness had been all mine.
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1:5