Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In an instant....

There is a car sitting on the lot outside our building.  It's an old Ford Escort. The color is simply black primer, it is meticulously clean for a car of its age and use.  I mean clean in a pure clinical sense.  Not like Hubby means it when he is talking about a "trailer queen".

That old primer black Ford, is held together with Bondo, duck tape and screws.  The seats are covered in plastic wrap over the soft cushions that cover the threadbare seats and springs.  There is not so much as a spot of dust or dirt inside that well worn, but obviously well cared for vehicle. 

It's owner was just as much of a character.  His personality was bold and vibrant.  He was a tiny frail appearing man.  But that was in appearance only, he was one tough fellow.  For hours he would do push ups and punch that heavy bag.  His grunts as he pounded on it echoing through the upper levels of the building.  Yeah, he might have appeared frail, but that was a complete deception.

Snippets of hair clung to his head, his clothing was as well worn as his car.  He'd often have safety pins holding the minor tears in his daily "uniform" of black pants, white shirt/t-shirt depending on the time of year and well worn dress shoes with white socks.  He would always have them mended by the next time he would arrive. He always had a toothpick in the corner of his mouth.  And never a harsh word for anyone. His blue eyes always sparkled as he smiled that kind smile and drawled "hey doll...".

His gym bag, well worn, was stocked with the basics he needed for his work out.  An equally well loved set of gloves, with duct tape on the palms.  He was a boxer to his very core. He would always pull out his wallet, black leather held together with two rubber bands, one that he'd tied together, to get out his membership card.

He wasn't wasteful or boastful, he was a humble man.  He cared for his belongings and kept them in good condition. He cared for his friendships the same way.  He had a few long time buddies, people that he had known for years.  People that he fussed with and disagreed with and always remained friends with.  He was not one of those cranky old men, in fact he was just the opposite.

For almost seven years we've talked, laughed, and shared stories as he picked out his boxing gloves.  He'd served his country proudly. It was the only time in sixty years that he'd not been a member of our Y.  A wiry little guy that always talked about all the beautiful women he'd had the privilege to know. Never was it said derogatory, it was with reverence. I am sure in his prime he was quite the dapper fellow and a great conversationalist.

He was so courteous and kind.  He would always talk for a few minutes, it always ended with "I won't keep you doll, you are busy..." as soon as you were needed to take care of something.  He was definitely a charmer!

Yesterday, he went home, doing what he loved the most. A couple of push ups and a few good punches to our heavy bag.  Oh please, his heavy bag! His heart simply wore out.  I wasn't there, I am thankful.  My heart is breaking just thinking about it.  I don't know if I could have been the one to watch it happen, to be beside him waiting for the ambulance, helpless and unable to do anything. His breath shallow and his heartbeat faint. 

At 82 years young, he went home.  His family had all gone before him, he was alone.  I am sure when that gate opened for him just in time to celebrate the holidays with his loved ones, I am sure those blue eyes sparkled, there was a toothpick in the side of his mouth and he softly drawled "hey doll... it's me Al"....