While out for lunch today, I entered the restaurant and noticed a group of seasoned citizens sitting at a large table laughing and cutting up. They appeared to be in their late 70's or early 80's, or somewhere around there. Anyway, I was intrigued by their "coffee club" type of chatter and managed to sit at a table near them (and okay, so I was alone!).
There were four gentlemen and a lady, one of the men was the obvious story teller of the bunch, and I guess the other three were there for support and laughter. The lady simply sat very upright and dignified, soaking it all in. I learned quickly that the storyteller had been a teacher at one time, and also realized he didn't finish any of the subjects he would start (the irony).. so the conversation was fast moving, but that's what made it fun to eavesdrop on!
This went on for about 10-15 minutes and then another gentleman walked in carrying papers in his hand, and joined the group. A little arched over, a little overweight, wearing over-sized eye glasses, brown polyester pants, an American flag stick-pin on his tan windbreaker open enough to see two writing pens in his white shirt pocket.
The conversation turned to this gentlemen as the group got mostly quiet. He said he got the results back from the doctor. He started reading from the papers he held in his hand. He sat there in the middle of the restaurant, much like being on a stage with a bullhorn, and read what amounted to his own death certificate.
Cancer spread throughout his body, kidneys functioning at 15%, I tried not to listen. Other problems too, with somewhere between a few weeks and six weeks to live. I tried not to listen again, I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I couldn't believe how calmly he read from the papers.
The storyteller nervously joked about him not being able to vote in the next presidential election, then took the conversation in an entirely different direction.
I watched as the man looked away from the group and stared blankly at nothing. Correction, that's not what he was doing. He was actually recalling and indexing every phase of his life, wasn't he?
I got up to leave but after making eye contact as I passed by him.. felt compelled to stop.
Sir, are you a veteran? (I don't know what I would have said if he said no) Yes sir I am, Dubya Dubya two. Army Infantry. I reached out to shake his hand, and he wrapped both of his hands warmly around mine and held on. Sir, I want to thank you for your service to our country and the sacrifices you made for my friends, for my family and for myself. May God bless you.
With still a sparkle in his eyes, he smiled as he thanked me and let go of my hand. Whew, absolutely heart wrenching.
Please seek out a veteran to thank this Veteran's Day and let him know that we love him and appreciate him. He will not seek you out.