‘It just worked out that way’

“I’ve had a bit of a tough life,” the old fellow said as he tried to straighten his back before shuffling on towards his government flat.

Skin and bone with a fluro short and greasy cap, I walked behind him, hand on his soft arm or bent back to steady him.

“How many times have you been hit by a car?” I ask, recalling previous stories.

“Five or six times,” he says rubbing a large cross-stitched scar on his left arm where a rod had been inserted. Mostly these car encounters are caused by a few too many drinks or perhaps a tall pile of metal on a trolley, obscuring his view of the traffic.

As for wives, he has one ex, who took the kids to the park in Glebe one day years ago and took off, “looking for a better life.”

“The police were called to these young kids running around the park with no parent.”

He’s seen her once or twice since then and despite her departure, mentions he would like to see her again.

As for kids, he’s had five, three alive, two dead, and none in contact now. He used to visit his daughter in Campbelltown until she moved without letting him know where. A son refuses to talk to him, refuses to call him “daddy” or let his grandchildren call him “grand-pop” becaue the son “believed his ex-wife’s story that he used to toss him against the wall.” 

I ask if alcohol has played a part in his troubles. “Not really, it just worked out that way.” When ever I buy coffee in Newtown South, I see him in the pub.

I pray for his back, hurting because a disc has been ruptured by his most recent run-in with a car. He accepts my prayer, with a furtive glance to see who is watching.

We arrive at the door of his small flat which is decorated like a mechanic’s workshop, and he thanks me and says goodbye. I hand him his ‘take away’ from our community lunch and tell him to take it easy.

Earlier in the day at lunch I had asked the 72-year-old when he would ‘retire’ from scrap metal collecting which he did every day to supplement his pension. “When I’m 75,” he said, with a crooked, flirting smile at the 90-year-old female friend sitting across from him.

And I know him because we do something simple and kind.

“We love you so much, we share not only the gospel, but our very lives…” 

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