Almost a year ago, my friends and I learned that Sia had come down with Parkinson’s. We were all gathered at our favorite Irish Pub to watch an important match on TV when one of the guys stopped his car in the front, helped Sia out of the car and brought him inside. Sia’s hands were shaking, but he smiled confidently and said hi to everyone. But you could tell that he was not the same person that we had seen a few months earlier. We all offered to buy him a Guinness, his favorite beer, to show our love for him! He smiled and said that he could only have a sip or two. His medication didn’t go well with the beer.
I met Sia many years ago when I first moved to the big city. After I got settled, one day I grabbed my shoes and went to the park looking for a pickup game. There I saw a bunch of Latin guys playing. I politely asked them if I could join them. They said that they already had too many players and couldn’t take anymore. Then I heard the voice of an Iranian guy, “Are you Iranian? What is your name? You better be good!” It was Sia addressing me! I smiled and introduced myself. I assured him that I would not disappoint him! He told the Latins, “This guy is my cousin and he will play with me!” They listened to him like he was their commander and let me join the game. Sia took me under his wings!
Sia was much older than the rest of the players, but he was as good as the best of them. Everyone respected his skills and loved his sense of humor. He always had a big smile on his face and was quite a jokester! Sometimes he would play goalkeeper for fun and on the corner kicks, he would pull somebody’s pants down and then would jump up and grab the ball! There would have been a fight if it was anybody else. But with Sia it was all harmless fun! He was an enigma and fun to be around! Nobody had figured him out, but everyone looked up to him.
Later on I learned that when he was in his late 20’s he fell in love with an Irish bartender; a beautiful red hair with green eyes. She was an IRA sympathizer and an illegal alien. She moved in with Sia and later on they got married so that she could get her green card. The relationship fell apart but they still remained roommates. Then one day when Sia came home and saw that she was with another guy in his place, he asked her to leave. But he kept his promise and stayed married with her until she got her green card.
Last year before Christmas, I got an email from the guys that Sia’s situation had got worse and he was moved to a senior citizen home. He had become weaker and frailer over the months and had a very difficult time dealing with the daily chores. One morning when the visiting nurse came to his place, she found him on the floor in bathroom. She called the ambulance and they took him to the hospital. After they patched him up, the doctors said that he could no longer live alone and needed 24-hour care. Sia’s only relative was his sister that lived somewhere in the south. She had come and visited him a few times. But he didn’t like her husband so he stayed away from them. They ultimately decided to put him in the senior citizen home so that he could get proper care.
I went to see him a few days before Christmas. It was a cold and rainy night. The first thing that I felt as I walked into the senior home was the smell of the place! They had closed all the windows to keep the place warm and you could smell humans in the air, the old humans. There were people on wheelchairs, motionless in front of TV’s, people on the sofas, old people walking slowly with their canes in the hallways; a very sad and depressing scene! The staff and the nurses were busy decorating the place with holiday stuff to give the place the Christmas look and cheer the residents up.
I found his room, knocked on the door and went in. He was happy to see me. His mind was sharp, his grip was firm, but his body was trembling. We talked for quite a while about everything. He said that the worst part was the isolation from the outside world and the long days and the sleepless nights. I asked him if there was anything that I could bring to him. He said that he could not use a computer because of his shaking hands and no WiFi in the building and then he said, “You don’t know how much I miss sipping a beer with the guys at the Pub and watching the matches on TV.”
I promised that I would be back in the next few days, as soon as the weather was nicer and take him for a stroll around the neighborhood on his wheelchair. I walked out of there all choked up and took a long walk around the neighborhood. I looked at all those Christmas decoration with blinking lights inside people’s homes and thought about how unfair life is!
A few days later when the sky cleared, I went back to the senior home and took him out for a stroll. We wrapped him in a blanket and then I pushed him down the ramp and onto the sidewalk. We strolled for a few blocks until we got to a corner grocery store. I left him outside and went in and bought a cold can of Guinness! I asked the Arab shop owner for a straw! He gave me a look as he put the can and the straw in a brown bag! We went for a few more blocks until we got to a park. A bunch of kids were playing. He asked me to stop there and watch the kids. I opened the can of beer, put the straw in it and asked him if he wanted a sip. I held the straw in front of his mouth. He took a small sip and then closed his eyes. It was as if he was re-living all the great moments of his life! He had another sip and then said that it was enough. “Let’s watch the game here. Don’t you think that number 9 is a good player?” He asked me. I stood behind him hanging on to the wheelchair handles hiding my tearful eyes. “Yeah, he is good! I hope that he gets good coaching as he grows up!” We went back to the senior home after a while.
A few weeks later I learned that his sister had come and had moved him to the south, to a senior citizen home near her house. That way she could see him more often and take better care of him.
He was gone before we could see him again and say goodbye. And now all that’s left is all those wonderful memories of him.
I hope that one of these days they find a cure for these diseases. We can’t afford losing so many good people.