We arrived ten minutes early for Dad's appointment with the specialist.
The office was still closed for lunch, and the waiting room was already beginning to fill up with afternoon appointments. My father and my son took a seat in two empty chairs lined against the wall next to the door and I sat opposite them on an oblong leather settee.
An elderly man entered the room, shortly behind us.
I scooted over to the side of the bench to offer him a seat. "That's okay sweetheart." he smiled "I've got my own," referring to the walker that he used to shuffle across the lobby.
I watched him.
His body was bent with age and he moved meticulously slow. The hair spilling out from under his lopsided fedora was more gone than grey. His face appeared to have crinkled willingly at every opportunity his years had granted him, and the end result was a work of art, a masterpiece of character and a charm that told the tale of a life fully lived.
I noticed as he passed by that his gait wasn't typical and it was instantly apparent that sometime during his rich life he'd managed to survive the ordeal of polio.
It isn't an uncommon thing for people his age. Many of his generation lived through the first wave of a widespread epidemic that hit Canada in the mid 1920's. His movements were typical; a dragged dropfoot and contorted torso. Despite what most of us would consider a marked disability, he moved with admirable ease and confidence.
As he reached his destination against the wall to my right, he turned and sat down carefully on the seat, straddled between the sides of his walker. It was then I noticed his most memorable feature.
They were blue. They simply twinkled. Vivid and bright, despite their years. While the lines in his face told his story, it was his eyes that served as the exclamation points.
He surveyed the room, and like an entertainer who has just taken center stage, he gaged his audience. In one full sweep of the lobby he somehow knew he had a waiting public. Noting that he and my father were the only males waiting to get into an appointment, he found his opening and began.
"Sigh." he grinned from ear to ear, his hands slapping against his knees. "Women first, women first women first. If I ever get my hands on the guy who made that up."
His delivery was a cross between WC Fields and Groucho Marx and he had the room eating out of his hand from the get go.
My Dad couldn't see the reaction, but he could sense it, and being as much a ham as our frontman, he baited him on. "We can ban together and change it."
"Yes we can!" was the man's reply, pleased that he'd so readily found himself a bonafide straightman.
A woman, standing near the back, took her place as a self-designated heckler and teased back.
"Wanna make a bet? There are more of us than you!"
I watched as the man's grin did the near impossible and broadened, as the room filled with a chorus of "Oh's!!"
Before he could retort, my Dad stepped in again. "I''m not afraid of my wife." he said, and then with the perfect comedic timing of Rodney Dangerfield he added. "She's not here."
"You left her at home?" the other man asked.
Dad gave him the answer he been rotely giving to anyone who has asked the same question of the past two months.
"She has a broken leg."
"Oh, you finally got her!" his new friend replied with glee, slapping his knee again with feigned delight. He couldn't have asked for a better lead in or a better round of laughter that ensued immediately after.
I swear I could hear drums in the back ground somewhere. ba dum chhh!! Vaudeville would be hard-pressed to compete with this stage show.
It was at that moment the nurse returned from her lunch break, walking across the waiting room to unlock the door, to allow the patients to enter through to the inner waiting room to check in and take their place in cue.
"Now the rush begins," she said as she pushed the door back, allowing them to begin to file through.
The elderly man was determined to be first, turning as he stood to get a renewed grip on the walker.
"Here's the rules. Alphabetical order" he instructed to the rest, as he began to make his way towards the door, before stopping to turn and make one last comment to his audience, "Oh, and my name's Adam."
The nurse grinned at what I knew must have been his regular shtick.
"Well hello, Tom" She grinned back at him as he passed by her. "I see you've been entertaining the room again."
The door to the office closed, and my son and I sat waiting in the now empty lobby. I looked over at him and he had a grin just as wide as the man who had just graced our presence.
"I want to be just like him when I get old" he said.
Who was I to argue.
"I do too"
There are gifts that each of us possess in this life that are meant to be shared, designed to help enhance the world around us. This man had discovered his, and shared it freely changing a drab waiting room crowded with patients who would rather be outside enjoying the sunshine into a vaudeville theatre of yesteryear.
We could hear the laughter spilling out from under the door. The show had continued on without us and we both felt a twinge of regret that we weren't on the patient roster today.