I was drinking a beer at the bar when an old man walked in carrying a large black briefcase. He took a seat two stools down from me and began talking enthusiastically to the bartender. It was apparent they were acquainted. He was going on with such excitement that I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. He exclaimed that his whole life was in that briefcase and asked the bartender to remind him not to forget it. I continued to listen as I chomped through my egg roll.
He explained how everything had finally fallen in place and that he’d found a great new place to live with meals and cleaning all included. The bartender, she was an expert at listening and responding. She made me smile. I can only hope that young people will give me the time of day to listen to my old ramblings when I’m his age.
Eventually, though, she became distracted with other customers, so he turned his attention to me and briefly recapped what I’d already overheard. I raised my beer and offered a cheers to his success. He smiled and began telling me stories.
His name is Bob and he is 81 years old. A frail frame with a slightly sunken face accented with thick glasses that were constantly sliding down his nose. He was threaded in a well- worn striped button-down shirt and completed with pleated khakis and loafers. Always a smile. We chatted about many things, but one story stood out particularly to me.
His eyes became slightly distant as his words came out. It was almost like he went to another place in another time. He told me a story of when he was 8 years old in the south side of Chicago. His childhood playmate was a young girl who lived five houses down from him. This particular day it was about sunset and the girl knew it was time to get home for dinner. Bob walked her home and as she ascended the stairs to the door, he took her arm. She looked at him and he told her he loved her. She smiled and said, “I love you too, Bobby.”
Bob’s eyes were wetting with tears as I was trying to contain my own.
They remained friends all through grade school, but eventually lost touch with one another and they both carried on with their lives.
Bob explained that a lifetime later, after his wife had passed away, he received an unexpected phone call. It was a woman on the other end however, he couldn’t place her voice. After some reminiscing, he realized it was his childhood love. She’d heard about his loss, tracked him down through old friends, and reached out to him after nearly sixty years. They are now happily in love.
I said, “Bob, that is inspiring.”
I told him that someone once told me that you don’t love someone one day and not the next. He paused and let that sink in then smiled. We chatted and laughed a few more minutes before he tabbed out and left.
81 years old. My heart was lifted and I’m glad I decided to go and have a beer and some egg rolls…