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Two Old People

After waking from my afternoon nap, being tired as I was from doing nothing, I plopped down on my mother's love seat, peered out my living room window and saw an old man trudging up the road. Actually, I see him walk up and down this little mountain almost daily if I look out my window around late afternoon, just as the birds finish stabbing their beaks into the ground for that day. The old man looks like our prototypical, blue-collar American. He always wears some awful plaid, long-sleeved shirt (despite spring's arrival), white-worn jeans and a squared-off baseball cap. The blue jeans are faded and ripped from usage, unlike the ones I bought from the mall or those trendy caps in Abercrombie.

So there he is, the back-bone of America, looking down as if the pavement would suddenly change and he might need to alter his path. I wondered if he simply walks. What I mean is, if I muster some guts and approach the guy, I would say, “You walk to pass the time, don't you?” Rather than sit in his house remembering all the good days, rather than wait in his bed for that unending sleep, he pulls his legs into those jeans, tucks in his shirt over a bulging belly, and flops on that signature cap so he can step out into the world. I wondered: why even bother?

***

I vividly remember a moment of clarity when Grandma confided her feelings about her best friend. She sat in her blue arm-chair with knitting needles dancing in her hands when I calmly asked how my great aunt's funeral faired. As always happens when she says something of importance, Grandma began her sentence with my name. “Justin,” she said, then wheeled her eyes towards me, her mouth tightened abit, and when it opened I noticed how every word sounded emphatic. The blaring television that had been annoying my attention faded out of existence. Now all I heard was her voice and all I saw was her wrinkled faced crowned in white hair.

“I didn't cry, even when I looked down into that casket. I never cried,” she said. “My sister was full of life; whatever that was, it was not her. That was not my sister.”

Maybe my grandmother stopped there, but in my mind her words echoed off the walls, and her eyes kept turning towards mine like a video stuck in replay. What she said was unimportant. It was when I heard her voice, when I caught her glare, and when I knelt at her side that I experienced something true. I ache to explain what my grandmother meant, but the experience lies beyond my ability to convey. As uncomfortable as the word faith sounds to my astute and objective friends, I believe Grandma's sister exists. I am unsure that my great aunt exists for me because I lived too distant from her, and remain separate from my grandmother's life. Still, only in such experiences do I ascribe my belief. Their clarity and calm overwhelm my rational and analytic skepticism, and I feel a transcending order that vividly haunts my waking life.

I want truth to stretch out her arms and embrace me again like she did while sitting in that old lady's blue chair. I dream of falling asleep in her peace, like we did as kids tucked under Mom's bosom. Oh! pray, 'may the peace of God that excels all thought guard my heart'.