The other day I ran into Walgreen’s. It was two o’clock, I remember that, but what I needed I have no idea. Apparently it was incredibly important enough for me to stop for, but not enough to remember days later. In any case, as I entered, my kids in tow, we trudged down aisle after aisle looking for whatever it was we were looking for. A few strained minutes later and we were standing in the checkout lane, my son and daughter taking turns peppering me with, “Can I haves,” and “I want this or thats,” Between the barrage of questions, I took note of the elderly man before me, stooped with age but dressed and pressed and proud. His smile was gentle, softened no doubt by a patient grace that only comes to those who have seen time pass and learned to accept it.
After a few moments of shuffling for the exact change, he took his modest bags and left, but not before I saw his eyes. Liquid blue and piercing, his eyes betrayed his body, seeming much more likely to belong to a youth for all the twinkle and possibility they held. And as much for those sparkling eyes as his smile-worn trail of wrinkles, I was charmed. Leaving the store, I took turns buckling in my kids and saw the gentleman was parked beside me. He’d just finished unloading the small bags into his trunk and was on his way to return his cart. I offered to help, and though appreciative, that same pride he wore in his appearance crossed over his features as he politely said, “That’s okay, I’ll get there eventually.”
Right then and there I wished I could adopt him. I wished he were a part of my family…a distant uncle perhaps that I could honor by listening to the stories he no doubt had to tell. But that isn’t the way of random strangers, so I decided to give him the one thing I could…a compliment. “Excuse me for saying so,” I hedged, “but you have beautiful eyes,” I smiled at his blue-stare crinkled with delight as he laughed,
“Used to get me into a whole lot of trouble too!”
“Bet they still do,” I played.
“I sure try!” he grinned.
And that was it. A small wave later and we were off…us on our busy, daily errands that will someday string together a trail of memories…the very kind, I realized, he was off to spend his day remembering.