We were in a park yesterday and the children were playing with their new kites and the sunshine, and with them were several adults including a 75-year-old man with thin wisps of gray hair and a new girlfriend.
I said hello and shook hands and we talked briefly about memories from 30-some years earlier, a time when this man and his wife and their sons were close to my own family and we all found ourselves together for a summer on a farm that my father owned not far from the American border.
This was only the second time I have seen this man since then, the first being two years ago at my father’s 80th birthday, when we also talked briefly, a day when he had his wife beside him. They had been together for most of their adult lives, in the area of 50 years, and the two were still living all this time not far from that old farm near the border.
So it was with some surprise that I found this man now had this new catch, a friendly enough woman of similar age who lives just across the border. This old man now stays with her some days, and on the other days that suit him he remains with his wife on this side of the border.
My children ran and laughed and tried to catch what was a strong breeze while I watched my father and this man – the two have been friends since their early years in Germany – sit and talk at a picnic table as gray-haired men sometimes do.
And I was reminded that while they say we live in a godless age, we don’t. There is a god and he goes by names like freedom and independence and just do it, whatever ‘it’ exactly it is, and some folks will never have much of a problem with this god no matter what season in life they find themselves in.
We salute this god like we salute the flag because it is an attractive and colourful reminder of the things we crave, namely that desire to satisfy ourselves regardless of the cost to others. But it is a bit of a cul-de-sac, this route that revolves around nothing but our own interests. And even though it has attractive places to live, after driving down this street one will only end up where one started, looking for something new yet again.
You would think that by their age old men would realize this. But it is true, there is no fool like an old fool. And so this man, to all appearances, will die in the not-too-distant future. And his new catch will be there at the funeral. And so will his wife. And his sons. And others who knew and cared for him. And one or more of these people will wipe a teary eye when the preacher says some kind words of solace.
But it will be confusing to figure out just who is who, and where this man actually belonged, where his heart really resided. And when someone wipes a tear from their eye, it will be hard to know if their grief is really over his departure or the grief that he caused while he was still around.