I saw an elderly man walking down the road, and it made me smile and cry all at the same time…
In the midst of cramming for exams this afternoon, I took a stroll through the kitchen, looking for a snack I would likely feel guilty for eating later. I spied the nearly empty box of Godiva my mom had sent the kids for Halloween and knew this was a treat worthy of guilt. However, as I picked up the box, what caught my attention wasn’t the three pieces of dark chocolate left in the box (Grammy would be ashamed!), but instead a man walking with some effort down the road. For a split second, he looked like my Uncle Steve.
“Uncle Steve” was really my dad’s uncle -my great uncle. He was elderly for all the time I knew him, but I never really noticed just how old he was until he passed away when I was in college. He was definitely the definition of “young at heart.” He was every child’s dream playmate; often regaling us with stories that seemed so real we barely noticed that the characters and story line couldn’t be anything but fictional. He would say things like, “I wish I was a rabbit. Rabbits just hop around eating clover without a care in the world.”
The adults never really seemed to take the time to listen to his stories. My grandmother, his sister-in- law, was usually quite irritated by his “foolishness” and fussed at him anytime he started a story in her presence. We kids handled it quite differently. My sister often reminisces about the time he convinced her that rabbits were really “indians” (Native Americans). He said their ears were really like two feathers standing up from a headband. Not only did she believe that tale, but she also believed it when he told her to be careful- “Indians bite!”
Looking back now I realize that he had lived through some very difficult times. He had experienced hunger, sorrow, fear, adversity – the likes of which I will never know. His stories- the alternate reality he shared with us children- was an escape of sorts, but really it was his way of choosing a more positive outlook on life. He made fun the center of his existence, and we were just lucky enough that he shared it with us.
This is why- I saw an elderly man walking down the road, and it made me smile and cry all at the same time.