With a thirty minute wait for a table in the dining room I decided to take a seat at the bar. Perched motionless on a stool down at the far end I noticed an old man. A tumbler of iced tea rested in a puddle of condensation there in front of him. His eyes were anchored to the TV screen above the bar, but he wasn’t watching the Blackhawk’s game. He seemed to be staring through the screen as if it were some kind of portal into another dimension.
His face was drawn, eyes sunken and he drew deep long breaths separated by extended periods of dead stillness. The bartender glanced over several times as if checking to see if he was still alive. The old man’s demeanor peaked my curiosity.
“What’s with the old guy?” I asked.
“His wife died about six months ago. He comes in here, three or four times a week.” Said the bartender.
At his age he’s probably watched most if not all of his friends die off and now he’s faced with the devastating loss of his wife. He’s alone. It’s easy to see the anguish in his eyes. His life must have become a loveless vacuum where her memory preys upon his mind. He’d miss her warm presence in the bed next to him. She wouldn’t be at his side to share his morning coffee, finish his sentences or help him remember the names of people from their past.
I’d imagine he’d give most anything to hear her voice, detect her fragrance or feel her embrace just one more time. No peck on the head followed by an “I love you.” No one for him to love back.
He looked worn out as if he’d been faced with frequent bouts of insomnia, or dreaded surges of anxiety. Too nauseous to stay in bed and so much nervous tension, he’d have to aimlessly pace about in the dark to relieve the jitters.
Maybe he finds some kind of solace on this barstool, or maybe he just can’t bear the thought of returning to an empty home. He’s poised there like a man anticipating a long overdue train. He studies his portal as if keeping a vigil for the train’s arrival.
Their union lasted the test of time. That kind of loving bond is like a horseshoe that had been placed around a tree when it was a sapling. After decades of growth it is so deeply embedded in the heart of the trunk that removing it would kill the tree.
I tried to imagine living without my wife. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. I realized I’m addicted to her companionship. She is so deeply rooted in me that removing her would require major surgery.
As I was lost in thought about my own wife I never noticed the old man leave. His iced tea remained on the bar untouched. Next to it lay a napkin with one simple but poignant sentence written on it, “Love her now.”
Photo Credit — https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrbeck/1981497807/