He said his mom was 7 years into Alzheimer’s.

And he liked coming here because he could talk to his dad, who’s been gone for a long time, and the other ghosts of those he’d already lost.

I didn’t say anything back to him.

I just listened.

Sometimes he’d play a song, almost like a reprieve, as if the music gave him shelter from the piercing desert sun of his vulnerability.

He’d been walking this hot stretch of asphalt for decades, to find his country and maybe me, but really he’d been hoping to find himself.

He wanted to answer questions that had been stirring in his blood all his life, to make sense of the light and dark.

So he’d kept walking, watching dawn turn to dusk, and stopping every once in a while to talk and play and take stock, when he found a willing ear along the road.

I listened.

Until it was time for both of us to go.

Until I knew the answer was not to solve a problem, but to reveal our humanity.

Until he took his lady’s hand, bid his goodbye, and kept walking.