We’ve all been there. Standing in line at some store, getting aggravated because there’s inevitably someone taking too long counting out change or writing a check at the register. In my case, I try not to get annoyed. But, start shifting my weight quietly grunting. Looking at other people in line who feel the same way but wouldn’t dare say anything.
This was one of those mornings. In line at the local CVS. I went I to buy batteries on sale. With four kids, always out of batteries and the never ending power outages that are so sporadic in Newtown, keeping a supply on hand is key. Either way there I was, and there he was.
He looked to be in his eighty’s. White thinning hair under a baseball cap with a police logo. Hunched over, holding onto his cane, seeming slight and worn out but was obviously once tall and strong.
As he fumbles through pennies, nickels and quarters to pay for the newspaper, I start to get annoyed. I know I shouldn’t, but I am. Suddenly my annoyance becomes compassion and I find myself smiling. He turns to apologize for making me wait, I say no problem and tell him to take his time.
I look into his eyes, a sweet smile and kindness. Or maybe it was humility.
I finally pay for my batteries and start walking out of the store. I am slow because my legs are always tensed up.
I notice my friend, as I decide to refer to him, struggling with his cart to leaving the store. I plan on walking by him but again I am drawn to him and something stops me. My mind flashed back to my great Aunt Anna who used to walking in the Bronx with the beginning stages of Parkinson’s Disease. I would hate to think of someone just walking by her and not helping her when she needed help.
Whatever the reason, I stop and ask him if he needs help. He says he doesn’t want to bother me, but I insist. I explain how I don’t walk that great either and that we could hobble out together. We start moving and again, I notice the police emblem on his baseball cap, so I ask if he was a police man. He told me how he was a state trooper way back when. I told him how my family was full of Bronx cops. I could tell it was hard for him to process what I was saying so I stopped talking so much and listened.
We made it to his car eventually and I helped him in. I asked him if he was okay. He said he was. We said our nice to meet you’s and our goodbyes and I walked away.
Now normally I would never consider buying a luxury like Dunking Donuts but I had a gift card that i had some leftover money on so I figured I did a good deed and I deserved something sweet. I also just wanted some Munchkins. I go in and place my order when the cashier says, “You’re all set.” I say, “What?” She proceeds to explain how my order is free that day because someone decided to pay for Newtown’s coffee and donuts. I think to myself, I should’ve ordered more, but I didn’t.
Leaving the DD, walking towards my car I notice my friend is still sitting in his car. I go over and wave to get his attention, since I would hate to give the old guy a heart attack just sticking my face in the window. Once he sees me, he rolls down the window and I, knowing what this will entail, tell him about the free coffee and donuts. I don’t know many people who would pass up free coffee and donuts.
Either way, i got him out of the car, walked him into the DD and what happened from there is history.
That day, my trip to CVS change my life and my perspective. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to stories and recollections of the old timers of our society.
We sat there for a while. Him talking while I listened. He had a lot to say. How he became a policeman, his wife who has passed from Breast cancer some years prior, his children who he hadn’t seen in some time and anything else he could think of. It made me feel a little sad thinking that I might have been the only person he sat down and had coffee with a long time. He gave me that feeling, you know, that feeling you get when you are sitting in a Grandparents lap or reading to a child. It was that warm, fuzzy feeling and I liked it.
I think he may have felt the same, but as with all good things, our time together had to end and we parted ways. I gave him my telephone number in case he needed anything in the future. He gave me his number which I could tell from the first three numbers that he had lived in Newtown for a very long time.
I also got his address so I could send him a Christmas card.
While I was driving away I had a strange feeling that that was probably not going to be the last time I saw him.