The Man from 1925
Sometime ago an old man walked past my car as I sat waiting for my daughter to come out. The old man is old and I mean born in in 1925 old. I know his age because this week he again walked towards my car as I waited outside for my daughter Lily. As he approached I’m not sure why but I wanted to chat with him. Maybe it’s his real sense of old style and glowing charisma that attracted myself to speak. That is the actual man in the photo above. I rolled down my car window as he slowly approached with a walking stick in one hand and a foldaway stick seat in his other hand.
“Excuse me sir” I said, “You love the way you always dress and walk down the street as if you own it.”
He smiled at me and said “hello.”
Then he never stopped speaking for the next five minutes. Over the next few minutes he told me he was born in 1925 in Lancashire, England. He used to have two brothers but they were dead now. One died young in World War Two. He had fought in Egypt in 1948 had battled to keep the Russians and Americans apart in Berlin, he had travelled to Korea, Africa and many other countries fighting. Incredibly he had even been and served in the British elite army unit the much feared and dreaded by the enemy – the S.A.S.!
His poor old wife suffered terribly just five years ago. She suffered from the mind destroying Alzheimer’s disease and he had to feed, bathe and look after her for 4.5 years up to his own age of 84. He told me help was almost none and all of his family have now gone back to the dust. The old man from 1925 told me when his wife died he was eternally broken hearted.
“ Beautiful, beautiful, she was truly beautiful”, he kept saying. He carries her photo next to his heart every minute of each day. He also has her ashes in an Urn at home. He says good morning to them and good night to them and speaks to them when he is lonely. To him the ashes are still his wife and his wife is the ashes.
Then he went on to share with me the biggest battle of his life.
“The worse thing for me is being alone, no one comes to me, no one speaks to me and no one stops me for a conversation. Men are not men anymore, no one can converse.”
I just listened and smiled. He had tears in his 89-year old eyes. I felt so sad for him but happy that he had such a filled life. He even complimented me. He told me I have a rare gift of conversation and thanked me for that. Truthfully I felt humbled and tearful as he spoke to me. Maybe I was looking at my own future? Finally after just five minutes although it felt much longer he told me there are just two things he really misses in his life. Incredibly one was good Fish and Chips. He said it is as good as impossible to get good Fish and Chips. He loves Fish and Chips. The second was his wife Jean. I could see part of him missed her yet the other part of him wanted to go to her now. When he told me the part about Jean he stopped for a moment, his once blue but now grey eyes filled up and he started into my car saying nothing. I looked at his face, his lines, his nose hair that trailed down like a small white feathers, his huge ears poking out from under his hat and his paper like skin on his hand as it held tightly on to the side of my car as we spoke. Finally he thanked me for stopping and speaking and then walked away almost in slow motion but the pace of a man from 1925.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this old man. I am almost ashamed to say I never even asked his name and I never told him mine. I do see him a lot walking so maybe next time I see him I will ask his name and share my name with him. Yet… Maybe that is the point, maybe that was the last time I will see him? He’s old, he’s lived and now at the end of his life he wants to be with Jean. It made me think a lot and I hope you don’t mind me sharing this small event with you.
Life isn’t forever. It’s a period of time that ends. We the person as a conscious something in this body of flesh does end. So it reminded me of how I spend my life and use my time?
Do I wait until tomorrow?
Do I wait until things change?
Do I do the things I feel I want to really do? I am grabbing what I can from each day and making it really count?
Do I share enough and give enough into life?
Am I leaving a legacy?
Why simply sit back and wait for the predictable retirement of rest, gold and then death.
Surely, life to be engaged to be enjoyed to be embraced and to give back to others. Do I do that? If I don’t can I make more of my life?
I spoke to someone just the other day in the street. They told me how short they are forever short of time, how life is short and how each day isn’t as long as it needs to be. Yet the truth is his day is the same 24-hours of someone that lives a 24-hour day. No 24-hours are any different, are they? The rich, the poor, the wealthy, or the successful – we all have the same amount of time each day. But surely it is how we put in order our needs, wants, priorities into life that makes our life worth being alive or simply existing? How about you? I’m not sure about myself, I’ll give it even more thought.
Can I ask one thing of you? Next time you see someone that looks alone and you feel you want to speak with them but are nervous for whatever reason to speak to them just go over and say hello before it is too late. The man from 1925 certainly made his life a filled book and that was with what he shared with me over just 5-minutes. Maybe this is a good time for you to ask yourself about your own life? I know it is for me. I hope you enjoyed that and yes that is the actual man in the photo above.
Alan Forrest Smith