Today started off crappy. I’ve been sick, upset, and just generally not in a good mood the last few days, so when I woke up with my throat on fire, my face feeling like it was trying to push away from the rest of my skull and run away, and something unpleasant brewing in my stomach…I almost cried at the thought of going through another day of it.
Curious George went off to work after making his own lunch and grabbing a quick cup of coffee – something I normally do for him but was not even going to consider doing this morning. I felt bad about that, but the sinus pressure was so intense I just wanted to lay in the dark.
I eventually got out of bed and saw that he had sent me a message from work asking me to bring him something that he forgot at home. Something important that the plant needed. I feel really snooty for admitting this, but all I can even think in my head was , “Really, I can’t see two feet in front of me with these puffy eyes and you want me to drive 45 minutes across town to come bring you a book of schematics you forgot? Right.”
I got up anyway, got dressed, fed the dogs, found the book and then trudged unwilling into the daylight and got into the old truck his mom is letting me borrow while I’m finishing up school and doing some work around the house and yards.
I get all situated, put my sunglasses on to block the irritatingly cheerful sunlight out, put the key in the ignition – aaaaaand nothing. The lights came on for a moment, no clicking or engaging sound, and then nothing.
TO make a long story short, I fixed the truck after about half an hour and then was on my way. Dropped off the book to Curious George and came back home. I was exhausted, my eyes were running, my nose was swollen and I couldn’t breathe out of it at all. My throat felt like the desert in July, and I wanted nothing more than to be pitiful and by myself.
Finished my paper that was late, instead. Good choice. The first of a couple good choices I have made today.
When I was driving to school I noticed a tall weathered white-haired man standing in front of a big neon green sign in front of the Albertsons down the street from my house. His sign said that he was 72, unemployed, a veteran, he was suffering from COPD and he had recently undergone triple bypass surgery. He wasn’t on drugs and he didn’t drink because of the diabetes. He was just asking for a little help to get him through and God Bless. Since I was already on my way to class, I didn’t think about stopping right then and there, but told myself that if he was still there on the way back, I would stop and see if he needed something to eat.
We don’t get a lot of homeless people in my area, the police usually take them to the shelter or just make them go away (which I don’t agree with, but understand), so to see him there was not shocking but certainly noticeable.
He had a neon green sign. That’s pretty noticeable. And he drew little flowers on it – which I thought was a pretty addition.
Went to class, participated, made some people giggle, handed in my paper, felt a little better and then hopped back into my truck and drove home. Didn’t even think of the old man to be honest.
As I was nearing the grocery store, I noticed the green sign again, and the man standing in front of it, leaning heavily on his one padded crutch, was leaning down to pet his dog. I was surprised that I didn’t notice the dog the first time. I’m not usually this unobservant.
I pulled into the parking lot and stopped a good distance away so as not to upset him and got out of the truck, approaching him slowly in case the dog wasn’t friendly. The old man took notice of me, straightened as much as he could walked slowly towards me. I could tell he was as wary of me as I was of his dog.
Dog was super friendly and playful by the way. Some sort of pit bull mix I think.
I reached into my wallet and pulled out the highest bill I had – remembering that my parents taught me that if I was going to give, give generously and what you can to help. I had several bills, $20.00 being the highest, so I handed him one of those. He nodded and said thank you and God bless. I guess I took him by surprise because when I held out my hand and introduced myself, he just stood there for a moment.
I waited calmly and he finally put his weathered and frail hand in my. He had a firm handshake that reminded me of my dad. I remembering thinking I like this man. He looked me straight in the eyes too. I don’t get that a lot.
He told me his name and asked me how I was. Told him I had been sick, but that I was feeling better. That’s when I noticed that under his thick bushy white eyebrows were the most beautiful and incredibly crystal clear blue eyes I had ever seen. I also noticed that even leaning on his crutch he had to have been at least three inches over six feet.
He couldn’t have weighed more than 115 pounds soaking wet though and looked like he was in desperate need of a meal. The dog was a little plump, speaking to this mans love for his k9 companion.
So we talked. I stood there on the busy corner near the grocery store and just had myself a great conversation with a complete stranger. And I learned a lot about him. He travels around in his little truck with his dog, always wondering from city to city from the southwest all the way up to Whitby Island near Canada – it all just depends on the weather. He had many siblings, but has fortunately outlived all of them. He has no family left, and has served in every war from the Korean war through the late 70’s. He was a mechanic, and a truck driver. His favorite things that he had to give up after being told he had Diabetes was Dr. Pepper and Apple Pies.
He refuses to give up his cigarettes though, he says, because that’s what killed his brother. Giving up everything he liked.
I pointed out that he probably shouldn’t be smoking with the COPD, but that he was old enough to make his own decisions by now so I fully supported him.
He seemed to really enjoy my snark.
While we were talking, and I occasionally playing with his very enthusiastic pooch, three other people came up and handed him a couple bucks. He was very nice and greeted them, but none of them stayed to talk to him, they all just avoided his hands, his eyes, handed him the cash and then walked away.
I was furious. If you are going to help someone, at least give them the decency of treating them like a human being and not like a plague ridden animal. But I can’t be completely pissed, at least they gave him something.
I could see that the man was getting tired, and he was a gentleman and wouldn’t sit while I was standing next to him, so I wrapped up the conversation by giving him instructions to the nearest Walmart, where he will be parking his truck and sleeping in tonight.
I was going to invite him to dinner at my place this evening but thought that maybe I should consult my husband before inviting strangers over. That, and although I was mostly positive about him not being a drunk/ drug user, or a serial killer, my mom’s voice popped into my head and advised me to leave it at that. That it wasn’t safe.
And she’s probably right. But still…
I told him that if I saw him around town before he started heading north again I was going to stop and talk with him. He smiled and those eyes…I swear, he must have broken the hearts of many a women in his day….they are that level of beautiful.
I shook his hand, told him that I hoped he felt better and to take care. Then walked to my truck, started it up and drove home.
Just a random conversation with someone I have never met before was all I needed to feel a little bit better.
Maybe its not my body that is sick. Maybe its my mind/heart/soul. Maybe I’m getting this sick because I’m not making my insides happy.
I hope I meet that old man again. He was really nice.