We were sitting in the café drinking coffee.
"Look, there's your old friend John," said my companion, looking out of the window.
I followed his eyes. Yes, there indeed was John. He was about to cross the road with his partially-sighted wife in tow. Tears rose to my eyes. The person that I knew so well as a man of letters, writer of esoteric articles on Eastern religions, known for his brilliant mind and ability to explain complex issues, in every respect had the dishevelled appearance of a 'down and out.'
I knew the impossibility of going out to say hello. Being suspicious of anyone speaking to him, he would resent it as an intrusion into his privacy. The last time I saw and spoke to him proved this to be so. He told me of visitors prying into his personal life, offering help that was not wanted, and appeared to be afraid that do-gooders would take over his affairs and threaten his independence.
That he and his wife were coping, could be in no doubt. After all, there they were, doing their shopping, while many couples in their mid-eighties were either housebound or in residential care. I knew people were concerned about them but did they need to be? In the past I have visited many elderly people unhappy because they have been put into care. This couple still have each other, and that is worth more than an army of do-gooders coming round and taking away that which they are still able to give each other, however poor that mutual assistance may appear to be.
So why should I be sad? Should I not be rejoicing in their independence? I guess it was the shock of seeing a proud man looking such a scruff. But also because I knew from talking to him during the past year or so that his memory is not what it was. Forgetfulness can put people into danger.
I would like to visit them for old times sake. But now that he is paranoid about visitors calling, will I too be resented?