I met an older man in the park who said he was rich. He wore tattered clothes. He sat on a bench feeding wildlife. His eyes were sullen, his face a frown, he looked lonely. I smiled at him and he patted the seat, confirming his loneliness. I sat down. There was something about his demeanor, a harmless frail old man with the deepest blue eyes, that was in need of company. He explained to me he spent his entire life waiting for phone calls, waiting for his adult children to treat him like they cared. He said that he called them, sometimes messaged them, but often those calls were forwarded to voice mail, his text messages unread. He said he recently came into money, his lips formed a zany grin, you know the kind of grin that some dogs make when their mouth is open and lips furl upward into the back of their snout? His eyes were wide, the pair of wire rimmed glasses he wore crookedly rose over his eyebrows. He had something to say, I could tell, but he laughed instead.
He pulled another bag of peanuts out of his pocket and shook the bag opened, tossing one after another to the gathering birds and squirrels. He continued to tell me that his adult children all wanted something for nothing. They expected him to pay for their college, expected him to buy them a first car, and he didn’t understand it and couldn't afford to help them with those things. He explained that he and his wife gave them love, a roof over their head, meals, clothing, and taught them moderation, and that he thought that those tools were enough. He wasn't a wealthy man when he raised his family. He barely made ends meet.
He continued to talk about his windfall and to prove it he showed me a wrinkled picture of an obnoxiously large check. The check in the picture was dated just a month ago, the check was for millions. He was shaking hands with someone dressed in a suit and each man held one side of the prop. In the picture the old man was wearing the same clothes he was wearing now. He was just as feeble then, paralyzed on one side and a grayish tint to his skin. How can you reassure someone who has lived their life with a certain expectation, as minute as it was, only to never have that expectation met? I could hear the heartbreak in his voice and could see it behind the smile he mustered. He was alone in a world that had grown too big and overly complicated for him to understand, and I, didn't have words to help.
I turned away and wiped tears forming in the corners of my eyes as he emptied the rest of the bag of peanuts. Finished with the feed he turned in my direction, his eyes wet with tears and his lips trembled over denture-less gums. His pain was too obvious, even though he tried to hold it in. He spoke, softly, almost in a whisper, in shame, with heartache...
“I gave all I had. I sacrificed time, handed each of them advice and gave tools I learned over my life. I gifted freely, and I handed it to each of them. I never expected anything in return, but watched as each one of my kids drifted further and further away. It started out with calls on Father’s Day and my birthday, maybe on Christmas, but then dwindled to once a year, and now, there's nothing.” He sobbed, covering his face with his hands, trying to hide his sadness. I rested my hand on his back and gave what little reassurance I could.
He continued, “The thing that makes me happy, are memories of my wife, those moments we shared in our entire marriage, those are memories, in here," he tapped his head and put a hand on his heart, "now the only thing that takes away all the gloom is that I donated all my millions to a trust for this park which will be funded by my gift. I’m too old for millions and my selfish offspring wouldn’t appreciate it. They couldn't appreciate the tools or time I gave them when they were small. This place is important to me, it's the only solace I had...I wept here when my wife died...I sobbed here when my children abandoned me...the park makes me happy...and today...I'm glad I got to say that I'm going to di…”
He clutched his chest and fell off the bench. I called 9-1-1 and did chest compressions to try and revive him. There was nothing else I could do. I was told he died of a heart attack and that there's nothing more I could have done.
I am heartbroken for this man, and for every selfish person in this world that can walk blindly and ignore the people who should mean the world to them, shame on YOU! There’s never an excuse not to pick up a phone, or send a message, or a card in the mail. Holiday, or no holiday, every day should be lived with the people who contributed in making us who we are. All it takes is a little less selfishness, a ton less self-absorption and more kindness. Hopefully this has an impact on those out there too busy to call their parents, grandparents or siblings, and helps to remove head from ass, or head from sand, whatever analogy fits the situation.
Thanks for reading.
This was a work of TIM EAGLE FICTION...
Tim Eagle is an author who lives full time, on the road, with his wife, Maria and their dog, Cocoa. He grew up in Michigan and is inspired by the dysfunction, insanity, and nepotism of rural America. His most current novella, Krae and The Vasectomus Trilogy are both available in e-Book and print. Buy his books and help him buy his wife a coffee or dinner. Find Tim Eagle at timeaglefiction.com or here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tim-Eagle/e/B004JOB5OS and on godless: https://godless.com/collections/vendors?q=Tim%20Eagle Sign up to get alerts when new fiction and blogs are posted, and a monthly newsletter at http://www.timeaglefiction.com/contact