I see an old man walking slowly down the
sidewalk with a small dog on a leash. The old man is hunched and barely
able to walk. The small brown and white dog isn't barking. He's trying
to walk as slowly as the old man holding the leash. They look like good
The old man is so bent-over that his face is pointing directly at the
sidewalk. He cannot straighten himself up. He is shuffling more than
walking and it is taking a long time for him to cross the width of my
house. His feet are moving rapidly but he is moving very slow. His
little dog is patient and trying to walk as slowly as the old man.
The air is heavy with moisture and fuzzy with the haze of a warm,
mid-summer morning. The sun is barely visible through it - it is orange,
big and partially obscured by the thin clouds that hover near the
horizon. The haze is all around.
The old man is having trouble breathing the
air. Every step he takes appears to be an ordeal for him.
I wonder why he is out this early in the morning? I wonder what drives
him to struggle like this in the warm, thick air? I wonder if he is
taking the dog for a walk because he feels he has to or because he wants
to? I wonder if the dog has anything to do with this walk other than
being the old man's companion on this mid-summer morning? I wonder if it
matters at all if I wonder?
I know full well that this moment will melt into the
mass of millions of other vague, ethereal memories that exist in
collection that is the cacophony of memories of meaningless and
meaningful events stored miraculously somewhere in the depths of my
own aging brain.
For the moment though, I am fully entranced and intrigued by the old man passing by
his dog. He is so old I cannot guess his age. If I were an age-guesser
I would guess he is around ninety -but I have no way of knowing for sure.
I wonder what it would feel like to
have my back permanently bent like his? I wonder what it would feel
like to have my face permanently frozen in place - always pointed toward the ground
and be unable to look
up and see the clouds in the sky or the silvery glint of the stars in
the night sky.
I wonder if I have a choice? I wonder
if there is anything I can do now to ward off such manifestations of
age? I wonder if there is anything I can do differently in my life
right now to keep my aging bones from becoming calcified and crooked
- and frozen into such an unnatural position.
Will I someday be the old man walking
I think of this old man and realize he was my age once. He was a child
once. He might have been a football player, a track star, or even a
perhaps a boxer. He must have been vibrant and young. He had
girlfriends. He might have been admired. He might have been quite the
Perhaps he has a wife at home right now waiting for him and
the dog to return. Perhaps he is her world and she is his. Perhaps on
days when the pain is not so great they still hold hands and walk in the
Perhaps young love is not nearly so deep and profound as
old love. Perhaps old love is what we all seek when we are young and
have miles and miles to go before we sleep. Perhaps old love is the
best love of all. The fire that once raged is now but a beautiful
I try not to feel sorry for the old, bent-over man, but I do anyway. I
realize though, that I really am not feeling sorry for him - I am
feeling sorry for myself. In the old man I see myself many years from
now struggling with the reality that must become all-encompassing: the
realization that life is finite and life will soon come to its natural
end. The consuming thought
one must feel at his age every morning that this morning may be the last
morning I have on Earth. The last time I brush my teeth. The last time I
comb my hair. The last time I eat breakfast. The last time I....
We all do things for the first time and
we all do things for the last time and none of us ever know when.
Age will take its toll on all of us if we are lucky(?) enough to live long
enough. Some of us age sooner than others and none of us know until we
get there exactly what price time and age will extract from us. Some of
us pay dearly for living longer - and some of will never live long
enough to pay the price.
The old man has finally passed my house and is disappearing slowly
into the soft summer haze. I can barely see him anymore though I am
sure that he is still shuffling along at the same painfully slow pace, his dog prancing
at his feet unaware.
My mind is as young as it was when I was eighteen; my body isn't. I
wonder if this could be a cruel joke nature plays on us? Putting an
eighteen year-old brain in a ninety year-old body seems as
heartless as the tornadoes nature spawns, destroying homes, hopes, futures
Nature does not play games. Nature is serious. Nature is no joke. Nature
is as beautiful as it is deadly. Nature is the ultimate juxtaposition of
all things lovely and and all things
lethal. Nature is a mysterious and unsolvable
paradox of beauty and peace and violence and death. This serene, hazy morning
might swiftly become an afternoon of violence,
destruction and death. Thunderstorms may come on this wings of this
afternoon and spawn dark spinning towers of death.
The haze is less dense now and the sun is higher in the sky. The old man
and his dog have disappeared into the summer
morning. A beautiful peace this morning with it brings. Deep, dark
thoughts float subtly around in mind.
The old man and his dog remind me of preciousness of this morning
- the evanescent nature of the seasons - the sanctity, frailty and
life - and the enduring treasures that are time and love.
The old man, I am certain, still holds
onto his life's dreams tightly - for dreams never age. They still live on after life leaves us withered
and empty shells. Dreams and
love are all we take with us - and all we leave behind.
The old man and his dog have gone but they linger in my thoughts and
will for a long time to come.
Perhaps someday, if I live to be as old as he, I will be walking on some
distant and hazy summer morning, my back crooked and my face bent toward the
ground. I too once was young, healthy, and I once had a lot of
time to spend. I know I'll think I should have taken more time to enjoy the things
in life that matter most. I will think I wasted too much time.
It may be too late then - or it may well be that it is really never too late.
I wonder if I'll ever know? Will
someone younger be watching me someday as I take tiny tentative steps
down some quiet street with my dog? By then I will be a very old man who has
lost his youth. I might be that old man who walks his dog someday.
But, I know, if I am that old man, I'll
be an old man who never let go of his dreams.