I sit in the pew as I usually do, hoping Ian keeps himself entertained with one of the quieter toys I’ve brought. As usual, I miss the point of the hour long ceremony I’ve been accustomed to subjecting myself to ever since I was a baby. Not that I actually made the decision at birth to become a Catholic, but it runs deep into who I am given that my parents engraved this routine into my life each Sunday.
It’s something I try not to do, but I’m constantly distracted by the others who attend mass. I am immediately drawn to an older man who I haven’t seen at the church we go to since we moved here two years ago. I guess that he’s in his seventies and wonder if he’s new since the church is small, or if he’s like us, and makes it to church when he can.
I decide he takes pretty good care of himself well with seasonal and tasteful clothes, and has a good head of hair for an elderly man of this age.
I don’t notice him again until I realize that after communion he has made a mistake; he has returned to a seat in front of us, instead of two rows ahead where he was sitting for the majority of the time.
I immediately forget about him after the mass ends and we depart to the parking lot. It’s when we are getting Ian into the car that I see the man again, wandering. He is clearly unsure of where he’s parked, something I’m already confused about at twenty-nine years old, especially when I’m at the grocery store.
It’s not a fast process, getting Ian fastened into his seat when I realize this man is clearly not even sure he’s parked in either lot on both sides of the church. I feel an immediate connection that this man could very well be my father in the years ahead, or even Bub. Or, as I tell Bub, it could be me.
I know I must help him so I tell Bub to drive me closer to where he’s wandering off to.
The man has a quick pace and when I’ve started, like a stalker, to follow him on foot, I keep turning around to the slowly moving car behind me that Bub is driving. I feel like my actions are that of a kidnapper even though I’m far from doing any such thing.
I finally reach him and he’s near another woman who is fumbling with something in her trunk. The shy part of me is a little afraid to say something aloud to the man for fear she’ll hear and judge me. But I know I have nothing to feel embarrassed about.
My instincts are right and the man does not know where his car is. I tell him to hop in with us so we can bring him to it after he points out that the color of it is similar to a vehicle parked nearby.
He is grateful for our help and I feel a pang of sadness when Bub tells me he left his bulletin in our car. I notice he has no wedding band on and I wonder if he’s returning to a home that is empty and without love.
I wish that he wasn’t alone and that someone is living with him who can make sure he doesn’t have to wander around often wondering who might help him.
I tell Bub it was so easy to have him get in the car with us that I hope no one takes advantage of his confusion.
I am not proud by my kindness but happy that I’ve brought back this stranger to something familiar, even if it is just a car.