Every morning when I leave for work, he is waiting for a bus to take him to dayhab. Every time I pass him by as he hovers by the doorway, I say something along the lines of "Hey! What's up?" or "Have a good morning." I hold my hand out. He smiles and gives me a high-five slap. Every time I see him.
He tries to greet everyone who comes in and out of the building, always with his hand, only occasionally with words. Some people ignore him. Some people are scared of him, or look away as if they are somehow responsible for his state of being. Some people partake in a greeting. Some people are inconsistent about it. He never seems to change - the look in his eyes, the stoop in his posture, the slackness in his cheeks which evaporates when he smiles.
It has always fascinated me how people with mental impairment age - he still dresses like he is 15-16. He has a coat with sleeves that are too long for his arms, and usually has a hat of some sort on. He is a skinny black man, probably in his mid thirties, though he looks like he is already pushing forty. He always smiles that same smile when he slaps my hand, that moment is the best thing that could ever happen. I feel that way sometimes, but rarely first thing in the morning on my way to work. I wish I could capture it somehow, maybe bottle it. In a way, greeting him every morning kindles a spark of that feeling in me, even when I am really low. I think part of that hope/smile is tied to mental weightlessness. It is easy to drink in everything when you have very little pulling you down. I wonder what he does on the weekends, when he doesn't have a bus to catch?
My mom lost her job, because the company she works for is closing the retail site she managed. Of everyone I know who is smart and capable, my mother seems the least likely candidate for unemployment, yet I listened to her and my father discussing it on Sunday night. She is really beat up about it - every time she has tried to rekindle a career since leaving the one she once had to raise children, something adverse has come in the way of her aspirations. I am at a loss as to how to help her state of mind - all I can do is help her try to find a job. It is an odd role reversal, to look at a parent's resume, and know that you can help.
What I feel she needs more than anything else is a dose of what the man in my building has aplenty, despite whatever other constraints he may face. She sees her working life as a drudgery, something she has to do for a paycheck, but not anything she _wants_ to do. She is not looking to tie her talents to her career. She is not looking to find something she can climb. She is looking to find something that will last her a half-decade at most, then a slip into retirement. How do you find motivation with that outlook? How do you face hitting the pavement again when the last few times you have decided _to_ make a go of it, you end up getting slapped down or have your job pulled out from beneath you? She needs some hope, and some happiness in the moment, instead of a pull of years and frustrations.
I hesitate to push to hard, or too fast. She has a month or so before she is officially out of a job. She needs to come to terms before she is going to be worth anything in an interview. I just hope that she finds something in enough time that she doesn't get pulled in by the undertow of fruitless job hunting.
Maybe I should tell my dad to ask her for a high-five before he leaves in the morning, to see if it will help.