His eyes were as faded as his Marine Corps hat,
white hair pushing from under the brim, his hands
trembling on the chrome handle of the grocery cart.
I don’t remember where I left my truck,
or if I even drove it here. Was my wife with me?
I don’t like avocados. Why did the boy put them in my cart?
And so my husband helped him, one Marine to another,
and they returned the avocados, found the truck.
Now I remember. My wife is at home.
She has Alzheimers, you see, she can’t come with me any more
because she wanders off and she doesn’t know me
when I try to get her to come back.
I worry that she’ll leave the house when I’m gone,
but what can I do? We have to have food, and it’s just the two of us.
We passed the old man’s house one day, my husband recognizing
the primer-red truck in the drive.
After that he kept watch on the place, stopped to talk
whenever he saw the Marine in town,
but sometimes the old man could not remember who this stranger was.
The wife died last month, a blessing in a way because she was getting to be
too much for me to handle. I’m too much to handle for my own self.
A chuckle at himself but behind the laughter fear lurked.
One day in the store he had a caretaker with him.
She stays with me now, makes me behave myself.
The old man used the chrome cart as a walker, pushing it
down the aisles and selecting his meals for the coming week,
asking the caregiver for advice.
And then he was gone. Weeds sprouted
in the gutters and over the fence.
The battered truck rested in the drive
on tires gone flat, one window halfway down.
Goodbye, old Marine.
Rest in peace, wherever you are.
We still think of you
whenever we pass your house
or see a faded Marine Corps hat
with white hair escaping from under the brim.