I had an inspirational encounter, this morning.
Which is good, considering that last night, I discovered (via Facebook) that yet another high-school classmate has perished (the second in less than three months).
On this soggy, dreary morning, with mortality still on my mind, I met an old gentleman, leaving the bank. Although he was moving rather briskly, I held the inner door open for him and started a conversation that went like this:
“Good Morning, Sir.”
“Mornin’, son. How’re you doing?”
“I’m great sir, and you?”
“Me too! Yesterday I was 95 years old. Today I am a year older.”
It took me a second to “get” that, but I did and responded,
“Well, happy 96th birthday, sir!”
“Yep, I was born in Mineral Wells, Texas on this day in 1916. That’s about 35,064 days, including leap years. I’ve served in two wars…”
He paused, as if to test me on history. Now, I am a mathematical moron (I was good in English) and was an average history student. But, was able to calculate some history, according to his age.
“That would be World War Two and Korea, right?”
Either he didn’t quite hear me (I didn’t notice him wearing hearing aids) or he wasn’t particularly impressed by my mathematical/historical prowess.
“I served in World War Two and the Korean War.”
“Well, thank you for your service, sir!”
“You’re welcome, sonny!”,
Yeah, he actually called me “sonny.”
“You know what keeps me going, young man?”
Before I could answer or ask, he said,
“Prayer! I say a prayer to God, every morning and evening. And I keep moving. “Causa’ Him, I ain’t even been visited by that “Ritis boy”, “Art.”
I’ve heard that a million times, but I just had to laugh.
I tarried in the lobby and talked to the spry old guy for a few more minutes. He told me how he was happy living alone, but enjoys getting out and visiting young folks, like those at the bank. It turns out all his family and friends have since passed on. He seemed genuinely thankful, joyful and enthusiastic about the 96 years behind him and however more were ahead (he did tell me his mother made it to 102).
As we talked, I kept glancing through the glass bank doors, looking for the person who would come to pick him up. I guess he noticed my looking out and pointed at a faded, old Chevy van, parked near the entrance. There was a little dog in it, standing on his hind legs, with front paws on the dashboard. He pointed at the van and said,
“See that van? Now, I get a pretty good pension. So, people ask me, ‘Why do you drive that old van?’ I tell them, ‘cause every time that old van hits a bump, it makes a sound like, ‘Paid for! Paid for! Paid for!’”
I couldn’t help but laugh, again.
When our visit ended, I offered to help the old solider to his van. I noticed he was wearing his cloth house slippers and the rain was coming down pretty good. He gave me a firm, 2-hand shake and assured me,
“Oh, I’ll make it.”
As I watched him stroll to his van and pet the dog, I pondered the close-to-home nature of the approximately 51 years my classmates were given and the healthy, war-surviving 96 years with which this man was blessed.
Then, I thought of one of my oft-used comebacks to a common response to something like “How are you doing?” Some folks will answer, “I’m taking it one day at a time.” I usually reply with a snarky, “Good, ‘cause that’s how we’re issued them.”
After doing my banking, I sat in my vehicle and considered my “takeaway” from this enlightening encounter, on such a dreary day. Here it is;
2. Keep moving.
3. Be thrifty.
4. Appreciate each day.