Autumn

Autumn

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I Tried My Best

It took him a good ten minutes to exit his car and walk the five or six feet to the shop's front door. He'd left his walker in the car. Pride. I've seen it a hundred times over the last thirty-one years of business.

The old man is bent, gray and likes battered fedora hats and blue shirts and smells like pipe tobacco, kinda brambly. He's tanned and wears a weary face full of creases and smile lines. His sharp blue eyes hold a minefield of trapped intelligence. I like and respect him. The old man's name is Lem.

I had the air set at meat locker and the smell of coffee was rich and thick when he finally achieved entrance. "Hey, Stephen."

"Morning, Lem. What's up?" He propped on his cane and pointed at one of the chairs and I came around and we both sat. I asked if he'd like a cup and when he was settled comfortably and had exchanged recent family news he went into silent mode. I went about my business and waited.

After a few minutes I stepped back into my office and jerked another cup of coffee. I heard, "Stephen."

"Yes, Sir."

Back on the floor I took a seat. "Ah, listen. I've got this old shotgun that belonged to my father. It isn't much. Just an old sixteen gauge and I haven't shot it in years cause the firing pin is broke. I think."

"No big deal, Lem. If we can't find a replacement I'm sure a nail would work." He smiled.

As we chatted about his fathers shotgun I noticed his eyes well and tears slowly slide down his face. He'd turned his head aside but tears are very hard to hide. I switched gears, "I bet you've run many different firearms in your life."

"Yeah, a few."

"What was your favorite?"

His attention had turned to the street scene. I waited as we listened to the traffic, the background music, and our hearts. I took in his old weather beaten hands with their liver spots and the rough worn cuff of his blue shirt. I noticed he hadn't worn his sweater vest - a standard with Lem. He'd complained about my air's temperature so often I'd lost count.

Finally, "Oh, I guess my favorite was the twenty millimeter cannon. I fired many a round at those Jap planes."

"Hit many?"

He turned and locked his blue eyes on me and said, "I tried my best."


He then reached and gave me his empty cup and asked for a refill. When I returned his face was soaked in tears.

"Lem, what's wrong?"

"I had to put her in the nursing home. I had to." I sat my cup on the table and placed my arm around his shoulders, and waited.

Then, "I just can't handle her anymore, Stephen. I'm just too old and her Alzheimers has progressed beyond my capabilities. It shames me. I'm a failure."

I explained how much I disagreed with his self assessment and how I felt he'd tried his best under very difficult circumstances. He removed his checkered bandana and wiped his face and then turned back to me and said, "I tried my best."

Then, I understood.

We talked for another hour or so. Just before he stepped outside I hugged him close. Like I said, I like Lem. He's a national treasure and hero, in the best sense of the word.

I whispered in his ear, "You did try your best."

I received a pat on the back. 

Stephen   


32 comments:

  1. I don't know if this is a true story or fiction but damn fine writing none the less.

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    1. Sadly, my friend, it all too true. Thanks.

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    1. Indeed. What's more heartbreaking I hear of these situations all too often...thanks, my friend.

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  3. Aww Stephen, My eyes are damp. Please reassure him there does come a time when we all need help. Truly, he did his best.

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  4. Hard days for any man. He's lucky to have a loving friend to lean on Stephen . . . .

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  5. Thanks for sharing Stephen. Before long another piece of living history will fade away.

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  6. Been there with my mother. Life altering experience.

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    1. It's an awful disease indeed. Thanks, my friend.

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  7. Sometimes in life, there are no happy outcomes, no matter how hard one tries. Sorry for your friend's pain.

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    1. Thank you, my friend. So very true.

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  8. If we ever meet, I'm buying you a beer. Or something better.

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    1. Tell 'ya what...we'll take turns. Thanks, my good friend.

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  9. He mourns his decision, but it's the mourning of his youth that is so overwhelming.

    You're a good man. Too many wouldn't understand, yet you gave him all the time he needed and coffee.

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    1. Lord knows I have the experience. So many have walked into my life, grown close, then departed. It's never easy when they take to the light. Thanks, Jess.

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  10. True heartbreak. As my wife and I age we see the onset of many things we dread. We pray. For only God can ease our burdens and give use the strength to endure.

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    1. So very true....thanks, my friend.

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  11. You are an amazing, gentle, strong man, Stephen. So glad I found your blog....

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    1. Nope, not me...I'm mean and grumpy and, well, mean...really. (Blushes, scuffs his boot in the dirt)

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  12. The older I get the more I feel for their pain, All we can do is our best.

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  13. That is a sad story, so heartbreaking. I am sure it happens a thousand times a day in the world, but rarely do we hear of it. You told the story well. As I get older, I fear these things I hear about.

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    1. As do we all, Linda. Thank you, Dear Lady.

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  14. He's a good man. And so are you.

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    1. Thank you, Tam. You're kinda special too.

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  15. Must be dusty in here. Good on ya, sir, for being there for him.

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  16. First time reader,and I loved the way you told the story.I'm a big fan of the greatest generation.
    Billf

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    1. Thank you, Bill, much appreciated. I too am a huge fan of the greatest generation. Welcome to my humble blog, hand around, please.

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