Photo by simpleinsomnia
On Sundays, Mrs. Mandelbaum would let Milton out to wander about. Neighboring store owners knew to keep an eye on him so his elderly mother could get her one day's peace each week.
That's where I first saw him, standing pigeon toed and knock kneed on the sidewalk in front of his mother's discount ribbon and yarn store. He was wearing her favorite apron with his best Sunday dress shoes, clutching a car headlight like a prized lollipop. His hair was done up in a pretty pink bow and his come hither gaze was inescapable.
He seemed to have forgotten his pants, which I found irresistibly charming.
That marked the beginning of what some might call a rather unusual relationship. While Mrs. Mandelbaum didn't feel her 57-year-old was ready for dating, she did concede to let me visit regularly. I would feed him mashed peas and read bedtime stories, changing the occasional diaper when necessary.
Caring for Milton fulfilled a nurturing need I never knew I had.
Apparently, I was too good at the job. Soon, Milton learned to tie his own shoes. In a few months' time he had mastered the art of putting on pants. This burgeoning independence progressed steadily until he was asking for the car keys and applying for a job at the local grocer.
His mother blamed me entirely.
When Milton acquired his own apartment, she took to her bed, claiming her heart was irreparably broken. She died three days later.
The doctors' term for what followed was "full blown regression." Milton began showing up for work in varying stages of undress. Customers would find him curled in the fetal position amidst the kumquats and turnips. One by one, he lost the skills to care for himself, he lost his job, he even lost his apartment. He finally lost the ability to form sentences and would only coo and point.
At long last, my Milton had returned.