After lunch at the Olive Garden, I went outside for some fresh air while waiting for my friends to wrap up their conversations. The mid-afternoon was cool and the overcast sky omened the chance of rain. There was an empty bench outside the door so I took a seat and relaxed.
As I waited, the door opened and a short elderly man with a cane slowly came outside. A staff-member came up behind him and held the door for him. Under his unkempt white hair, his jaw was slack, he had droopy skin below his eyes, he had a paunch and he shuffled slowly. He was a sad sight. There must be many elderly folk who come here for an inexpensive main meal at lunch. Ah, there’s my judgment.
The door remained open as I saw the front end of a walker placed on the ground and an elderly woman, shorter than the preceding man, emerged behind it. She took two steps, then moved the walker to do the same again. She had a red sweater draped over her shoulders.
The door remained open as an even shorter white haired gentleman with a cane followed the woman out the door. The door shut. As he passed by, he looked directly at me and I saw a weathered Mediterranean face; Greek, Italian, Spanish, I'm not sure. Our eyes met but nothing passed from either of us to the other. He turned his attention to the steps ahead of him.
When the woman arrived at the curb, the first man, now on the street, turned to assist her by holding the walker. The second man came up and assisted from one side by holding her elbow. They slowly place the walker on the street and she gingerly stepped off the curb. When that was negotiated, the second man reached to adjust the sweater back onto her shoulders as it had slipped off a bit.
As the trio crossed the parking lot to their car a big SUV came around the corner rather fast but came to an abrupt halt to let them continue on their way.
I was impressed (I was going to say struck, but thought better of it), I was impressed by the quiet dignity they showed as they maneuvered to their car. No words were spoken during the entire episode, nor boisterous display of emotion; just a simple knowing of their purpose; gentle movements of affection and decency.
I turned and rose to meet my chatty friends now leaving the restaurant. We said our goodbyes and departed to our cars. I did not look at the three travelers again. Yet this snapshot of life stuck with me and I’ve pondered what took place.
The halt and the lame, the feeble and infirm have something to say: sometimes with words, always with actions.
Ron Eklof 2007