Yesterday, I met and made a friend.
His name? Richard. Let me give you the 411. He’s got the most intricately shaped nose I’ve seen my entire life. It’s long and arched so perfectly, I couldn’t help but stare. He’s British but he didn’t have the typical tight upper lip we oft get turned off with. He’s sprightly, immensely educated, was formerly in the military and cooks a mean English four-course meal. He walked with me all day, and never during the day did it occur to me that we were so different in culture, upbringing, and taste. Richard inspired me to keep learning and exploring, to keep walking because in doing such, you’d get to see more, experience more fully and be, simply be.
Yesterday, I met and made a friend. His age? 71. (I thought 61, was a decade wrong. Oops)
I’ve always been curious to know old people and to know what it would be like to be them. If I die young and never experience what it’s like to be old, then I’d be glad knowing that old age isn’t as crippling is we think it to be.
Usually, when we say old, we mean passe or worn out. When we think old people, we often think geriatric—and admit it, we sometimes find the adult diaper-wearing, loopy senior citizens kind of amusing and funny. We poke fun at it and them, when in truth, it’s something we fear ourselves. Pity the fool who thinks himself immune. Years from now, it could be you sitting in wheels, your arm jelly being jiggled and swung every which way by that silly grandchild of yours. You blink and you’re the wrinkly old fart you used to laugh at.
Yesterday, I found myself learning and relearning things. I learned to appreciate the often-ignored knick knacks of life and people. I relearned the value wisdom and age contribute to our lives.
I never got the chance to get to know my paternal grandfather. He died when I was 4 and the little I knew about him has evaporated into oblivion. As for my maternal grandfather, that’s another story altogether—one too melodramatic to even discuss here. Let’s just say the dysfunctional nature of that side has prevented me from having an ideal grandfather-granddaughter relationship. Thus, I never got the chance to enjoy and bask in the presence of a grandfather, the one-for -the-books kind, one who tells you stories as you sit on his lap and trace his wrinkles.
My friend Richard gave me a slice of that cake. His unique sense of humor (both self-deprecating and not), his sense of style (both modern and not), his ability to fend for himself, maintain the household and his lovely garden plot, had me floored. I was so glad to find someone I could tease for having the same mobile phone I had in grade school. I was glad that I could offer a bit of my time and company to a man who had lost everything but still lived like anything.
Richard lost his wife last year to a peaceful albeit painful battle with the big C. They were best friends more than anything and losing her, as I imagine, must have been most heartbreaking. Despite the loss, he’s continuously on the prowl to find happiness in life. Despite losing his better half, he remains whole. Despite the age and a body that he admits to be winding or crumbling, he maintains a sense of vigor and thirst for life and people.
He changed my life yesterday by coming into it. I made a friend worth knowing and learning from, one I hope to be like when I’m old and gray, rotting and jiggling, in nappies and wheels.