Still Here

He stumped into the waiting room at the garage, supported by a cane made of polished, twisted wood.  I looked up from my crocheting and smiled, and he said hello.  He made his way to the desk and slowly juggled cane and wallet.  There was some soft grumbling about being sore and getting old, and I smiled sympathetically.  “Don’t get old,” he told me, and continued with a twinkle in his eye, “when you’re young, you think you’re so smart.  And then you get old!”

I returned the twinkle and grinned at him.  “I try not to be too smart for my own good.”

He chuckled and laid some bills on the counter.  When it appeared that all the mechanics were busy at the moment, he eased himself into the chair next to me and motioned to my crocheting.  “Whatcha makin?”

“A dishcloth,” I said, with a laugh.  “I’m only just learning.  I’m teaching myself, so it’s an easy project, but you can always use a dishcloth.”

“You’re teaching yourself?” he repeated, with some surprise.  “One of my sisters used to do that.  She’s ninety-two now.  She used to make…oh, lots of things.  Big tablecloths, beautiful things.”

I expressed my admiration.  “I’d like to learn that, eventually.”

He nodded, and his eyes were remembering.  “I don’t know if she does it anymore, since she’s ninety-two now.  But she used to make all sorts of things.”

He told me about a girl he had known once who was learning to crochet, and was trying to think of what to make first.  “Make me a scarf!”  he had told her.  “An orange one.  About that big.”  He was kidding her, and didn’t think she’d actually make the scarf for him.  But weeks later, she had presented him with a bright orange scarf.  “I kept it for years,”  he said.  “But…” he paused, and looked a little sad. “Do you know, I don’t know where it is anymore.”

Our conversation stretched on for almost an hour.  It was the most enjoyable conversation I’ve ever had with a complete stranger.  He told me freely, in bits and pieces and stories, about his life of eighty years. It had been a hard one.  “But what can you do?”  he asked, with a shrug.  “Just keep going.  That’s all you can do.”

I agreed, and added, “But–you’re still here.”

He grinned.  “Yup.  I’m still here.”

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