Random Word of the Week: Aging

I had trouble with this week’s word. I’m not even sure if my story makes sense, but here it is! I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and comments! What kind of story would you write with this word?

And it seems to be a bit longer this week as well… but anyway, I hope you enjoy! Happy reading!

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It was the most unusual walk in my most unusual day yet. After work, I take the bus and go down one stop earlier than my normal one. This is so I can have a healthy walk in the park for 20 minutes before I resume working at home.

I live alone, and always have been since I was 18. I visit my childhood home a lot, especially when my mother makes her famous roast chicken for lunch. Other than that, I’ve drifted apart from most of my childhood and high school friends. I didn’t make friends when I was in university.

Now you might think that I’m the anti-social type. On the contrary, I’m very good with relating to different kinds of people. That’s why they’ve put me in the Public Relations business after all. I’ve made tons of acquaintances. I can tell the best jokes when the colleagues would decide to go out for drinks on a Thursday night. I am the one who’d get everyone talking to one another during club social gatherings when I was still studying. In short, I’m a very fun, sociable and friendly person.

I just don’t feel like keeping relationships, that’s all.

And no, it’s not because of a woman who had broken my heart.

But it goes along those lines. When I was 10, my father died. My oldest brother was working abroad, and because of his job, he had no way of coming home. We understood of course, he was devastated, but he really didn’t have the means. Which meant I was the one left to comfort my mom. And she was inconsolable. Every night I’d hear her crying in her room. She’d hide it from me of course, the whole day she’d be all smiles, and her voice would be just a pitch higher than normal. When she thought I was safely tucked away and asleep in bed, she’d start crying. Small whimpers at first, and then suddenly, the sharp, inevitable intakes of breath as the tears take over her whole body, and it almost feels like she’s trying to wretch something horrible out of her system.

I never wanted to experience that.

My mother, being the strong woman that she is, made it out of the ordeal although it was obvious that there was always something missing. I fear for the day when she’d leave me to be with our Father again, which is why having the one and only solid relationship with my mom was enough. It just seemed easier not to be attached to anyone. People always leave. Lovers, friends, classmates… I get enough social interaction anyway with my job. As long as I was able to give myself a stable home to live, and I’m fed and sheltered every night… my life was alright the way it was.

Until an old man almost got hit by a bike, that is.

He didn’t see the small kid racing down the path, and the kid was too absorbed in flying across the park to notice. The old man stumbled backwards and I was just in time to catch him.

“Woah, hey, I’m sorry young man,” he said, holding on to his hat and laughing. “I should have been more aware of the children,”

“They should have been more aware of people walking,” I said.

“Oh, let children be children,” said the old man walking towards a park bench and sitting there. “I know you,” he said thoughtfully, “Aren’t you that young lad who lives in the corner of Tiber Street?”

“I am,” I said cautiously. Then I realized. He was practically living two doors down from my house. Sometimes I see him when I walk to the bus stop in the mornings.

For some reason, instead of continuing my walk back home, I decided to sit next to him. Just because it seemed polite.

“It’s a Friday, up for anything tonight, lad?” the old man asked.

“Nothing really. I still have a project that I need to finish,” I said.

“What? No special lady to see on this fine evening? What about your old pals?”

“No sir, I’ve got no time for that,” I said smiling.

“You should always have time to catch up with your friends,” said the old man suddenly turning to face me. “Otherwise, they’d be gone one by one! Last week, I had to go the funeral of one of my oldest pals! We’ve seen it coming, but boy, it was still mighty sad…”

“That’s the thing sir, I don’t want to go to funerals. I don’t want to have to form relationships when I know that someday, they’re going to have to break anyway,” I thought I might have sounded too rude, but my current companion didn’t mind. He just sat there, watching  the autumn leaves dancing in the wind.

Feeling the need to explain myself, I said, “It’s not as if I’ve gone through something horrible or traumatic, but my father died when I was really young, and I saw how much my mother was affected. I just don’t think I’m the type of person who could face getting used to loving a lot of people, then having them torn away from me… I’d rather grow old alone, that’s all.”

The old man stroked his chin, and whether it was due to thoughtfulness or habit, I didn’t know. “That’s a challenge that everybody faces when their hair starts turning gray,” he said.

” But take it from me, lad. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in my time. And sure deaths are a lonely, lonely thing to go through, but the main thing that always stands out during funerals is how much that one person has touched the lives of so many others. You grow old, things change, they show everything in color now, the phones don’t have wires, and bless me, you can even talk to family through the old computer monitor!”  he laughed.

“… the thing that made me feel most fulfilled though, is the fact that I’ve made so many good friends through out the years. I’ve met their friends, they’ve met mine, and the world seems a better place. My own family has grown, and after death, comes life again, and the whole cycle of the human race is able to revive itself once more,”

“You’re never alone, boy” the old man said, patting me on the back. “For every tear shed in a funeral, there’s a new born taking it’s first breath and getting ready to wail!”

He said it with such conviction and feeling, it was obvious how he was so involved with all the important milestones in his friends’ and family’s lives. Suddenly I understood how my mom was able to go on living without my dad… why she still pushed for my older brother to visit with his family more often, and her efforts to keep in touch with the grandchildren.

“Growing old ain’t so bad when you’ve got a lot of people to hold your hand. It’s what makes life meaningful, and in the end, if you’ve had enough love to last a lifetime, moving on isn’t so scary.”

He turned to me again, memories of the good and the bad, of growing up and growing old reflected in his faded blue eyes. “It might be a bad idea to consider me a friend since I may leave at any time, but if you ever feel like you’re needing a talk, just come knock on my door,” he stood up, tipped his hat towards me, and started walking home.

I sat on the bench until the sun set… until I saw the little girl on the bike racing home, until all the leaves on the pathway were cleared by the wind.

It’s not too late. I don’t know whether the old man is right or not, but I’ve heard of many ways in which one can ‘age gracefully’, and the old man’s advice didn’t seem so hard to do.

I stood up and resolved to give a call to my old childhood friend.

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