Barney had no idea who the little girl was, but he liked her smile. He liked that she brought him ice cream nearly every afternoon. He liked to sit in the park. He liked the sunshine on his head, and he liked to listen to the birds in the trees.
He looked down at the little girl again as he licked the chocolate ice cream cone. She was holding his hand as she sat beside him and watching the birds flitting around in the trees.
“Is it good?” she asked him.
He wasn’t sure what she meant, but he smiled and that seemed to satisfy her.
“I could have gotten pistachio instead, but I know you like chocolate,” she continued. “You do like chocolate the best, don’t you?”
He smiled again.
“Pistachio is green,” she said.
“Green,” he repeated, and she nodded.
Barney liked the way the sun glinted off of her brown hair and the way she kicked her feet like she was doing now. She had freckles across the bridge of her nose, and she was missing a front tooth.
“My Mommy said a pistachio is a nut,” she told him. “My friend, Darla is allergic to nuts. Well, allergic to peanuts. Do you think she’s allergic to pistachios, too?”
He smiled again.
“I saw a girl with a puppy today. Do you like puppies?”
“Puppies,” he repeated, and he nodded. She smiled, and he smiled back.
“It was a cocker spaniel,” she told him.
He finished the ice cream while she told him all about how cute the puppy had been. She was still chattering away when the side door on the building next door opened, and a woman hurried out. She stopped when she saw the two of them sitting together and she looked a little startled.
“Well, hello,” she said, as she joined Annelise and the old man. “Do we know you?” the lady asked.
“I’m Annelise,” Annelise said, “This is Grandpa. Well, he’s not really my Grandpa, but he’s nice, and he likes ice cream.”
“Oh,” the lady said, “So you’re the one who brings him ice cream.”
“Yes, he likes chocolate the best.”
The lady smiled and said, “His name is Barney. He’s my Dad, and he has Alzheimer’s.”
“He has what?” Annelise asked, scrunching her nose up at the unfamiliar word.
“Alzheimer’s,” the lady said. “It’s a disease that confuses his mind. He doesn’t speak too much anymore.”
“He’s a good listener,” Annelise said, “My Mommy said that’s important, too.”
“Yes, it is,” the lady said. “Where is your Mommy?”
“Oh, she’s there.” Annelise pointed to the building on the opposite side of the park. “I live there. That’s how I found Grandpa. He looked lonely sitting here so I started sitting with him.”
“That’s very nice of you,” the lady said, “He likes to come out here in the afternoons.”
Barney smiled as the nice lady sat down on the other side of the little girl, and they began to talk. Barney watched a squirrel sniff at the discarded napkin from his ice cream cone. Barney liked watching the birds and the animals in the park. It was a beautiful day.
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