It had been Leo, their nephew, who got them into the nursing home. Leo had been concerned for their well-being, as these three elderly folks were living together in a home with somebody’s son, and the son fell ill. Leo had driven out to Upstate New York to find his relatives living in squalor without any assistance. Because Leo knew that he could not care for all three of them in his home in New Jersey, he made certain that they were placed in one location close by, all together, so that Leo could visit daily. And visit daily, he did.
I went to see Leo last week to get a routine oil change. Since I have stopped working at the nursing home, I learned that both Esnilda and Luisa have died. Salvatore lives there alone, but the daily visits from his nephew persist. One of the great upsides of bringing my own car to Leo’s auto repair shop is that I get to sit in the waiting room and talk to him.
Leo told me a few stories that made me pause. There had been a 97-year old gentleman named Henry who had dropped off his car for a most unusual repair. Henry’s windshield wiper lever had come out of the side of his steering wheel and was dangling by a wire. “This was odd,” Leo said. “But I fixed it and called Henry’s daughter, who paid for the repair over the phone.”
It was only one month later that Henry returned, with the exact same problem. “I wondered how this could have happened twice, as I have never really seen it before,” Leo explained. “And then it dawned on me: Henry was using that windshield wiper lever as if it were an old stick shift.” Remember when stick shifts were on the right side of the wheel? Henry was getting confused about how to get the car to drive, reverse, or put it in neutral. It was at this point that Leo called Henry’s daughter, who decided it was time to take away Henry’s keys and remove his ability to drive. Luckily for everyone, Henry agreed with this decision and took to walking places instead.
The second story that Leo told me did not have as good an ending. Leo had been at the shop doing paperwork on a Sunday when he saw an elderly couple drive into the lot. Leo went outside to tell the couple that he was closed. The elderly man explained that he and his wife had been driving around for over 24 hours. They were lost and did not know where they lived. Leo looked through the man’s wallet to discover that the couple lived several miles away in Metuchen. There was a phone number written down for a daughter.
Leo called the daughter of the couple, and she was entirely unconcerned about the situation. He then called the local police department, to take the couple back home. Leo pled with the police officer to revoke the driver’s license of the elderly gentleman, but the cop replied that he was legally unable to do so.
I sensed the distress in Leo as he recounted these tales. It was the same irritation that he had shown when his Uncle Salvatore recently told him that the Argentinian futbol games were not tuning into his television station at the nursing home. Leo had paid for a satellite dish to be installed so that his uncle would have something enjoyable to do to pass the time.
After voicing his dismay to the staff of the nursing home, Leo called the cable company. It turned out that 26 other residents had spliced wires into the satellite dish intended for Uncle Salvatore. The cable company went and removed all of the other competing wires that were preventing Sal from watching soccer. Now, he can see all of his favorite games again. He can watch Lionel Messi play for his homeland of Argentina.
Lionel Messi is regarded as one of the best soccer players in all the world. Messi was born in Argentina, and Leo and I are great fans of his remarkable abilities. What marks Lionel Messi as unique is his quiet humility. Messi does not strut around seeking fame. Instead, it is his down-to-earth nature, hard-working spirit, and directed intensity towards his craft which separates him from other professional players.
As far as I am concerned, Lionel and Leo are the two best things to come out of Argentina. In their protective and unassuming way, both of these men are serving their respective communities. Both of the names Lionel and Leo are derived from the word lion. Leo is a gentle king of the jungle. He guards the roads and the lives of his loved ones. Even if he does not know this, I do. So, if you spot a guy in Middlesex County who can fix any car and looks out for the elderly, tell him you have heard of him. I think Leo should know all that he does for the people in the suburban forest of Matawan, New Jersey.