Bob rocked back and forth three times in his wheelchair before coming to his feet. He grabbed the walker with his left arm — the “good one” — and began the 30-foot journey down the sidewalk in front of his house. I marveled at how much he had improved since my last trip a month before. He finally began to walk on his own.
He placed most of his weight on his left leg, dragged the less cooperative right one forward, then used his walker to take the next step. Sweat gathered on his brow, glistening in the morning sun.
What a major victory!
Fourteen years earlier I stood in that same driveway on the first day we met. I purchased some wine from a restaurant liquidation that Bob oversaw and came over to pick it up. We talked the afternoon away, became instant friends. For more than a decade, Bob taught me about wine and food. We shared countless lunches and dinners. Together, we formed the San Fernando chapter of the International Wine and Food Society.
When it comes to fine dining, Bob has forgotten more than most of us will ever know.
A little over a year ago, after one of those very lunches, I stood on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, waiting to say goodbye to Bob, who stopped to use the restroom. He came out the front door with a strange look on his face and began to step past me, into the parking lot.
“Bob,” I asked. “Is everything alright?”
He kept going, in a kind of odd trance, moving in the general direction of his van.
“Bob,” I persisted. “It’s me, Ridge. Are you okay?”
Then he collapsed. I caught him on his way to the pavement.
Right in front of me, Bob had a stroke.
After weeks in the hospital, they moved Bob to a treatment center, where he spent the next few months. After he re-gained enough motor skills, he was allowed home, to continue the agonizingly slow process of recovery.
Bob’s gleaming smile assures me that his mischievous self is alive and well, even though he still cannot speak. He raises his eyebrows and wags his finger at me, pulls his right arm with his left, to show me how much further he can extend it.
Inch by inch, I see the progress.
How many of us take our health for granted?
How many of us hold on to senseless upsets, leave our house angry, forget the preciousness of each and every moment?
What if today was the last day you had a chance to tell your family that you loved them? Did you let that chance slide by? Do you do it often?
In my own arrogance, I miss some of those chances. Stuck in self-righteousness, I hold on to a foolish grudge or make a mountainous issue out of a few words spoken in haste.
What a waste. It takes Bob’s courageous struggle down the sidewalk to pull me out of my muck.
It would be nice if I didn’t need the reminder.
I look forward to sitting on the back terrace next to the waterfall and discussing the nuances of a favorite red burgundy.
Soon, old friend, soon.
That’s A View From The Ridge…