“Excuse me, sir, may I sit here?“ asked the lady to the elderly gentleman who was lost in his thoughts, watching as the ducks got into the lake.
With a startled expression, he said “Oh! Yes of course, please!“
“I am so sorry,” said the young lady, “I didn’t mean to surprise you.”
“Not at all,” said the old man. “At our age we can only concentrate on one thing at a time.” He continued to look at the lake.
The lady smiled and said, “I hope I am not interrupting you. This bench seemed the perfect spot to sit and have my coffee this morning.”
The man sat there staring at the lake. The lady took a few sips of her coffee, her lipstick now transferred on to the coffee lid.
“Do you see the ducks over there?” the old man said, breaking the silence.
“Yes,” said the lady as she put her coffee down on the pavement. “They always go in single file, the mother duck leading the way. Do you know why?” he asked, now looking at the lady. He had to strain and his chin touched his chest. It was like a professor was asking a question to his favorite student.
“Ahem…because they are afraid of their mom?” answered the lady.
“Hahaha,” the old man laughed at the lady’s response. “Well there is no refuting that,” he said as he sat back and placed his arms on his cane and gave a big sigh.
“Why do they do that?” asked the lady.
“Do what?” the old man replied.
“The ducks. Why do they go in single file?” asked the lady with increased curiosity.
“Oh. Because the ducklings are putting their trust in the judgment of their leader…their mother.”
“Hmmm. That’s interesting. How can you be certain?” asked the lady.
The old man became silent and slowly returned his gaze towards the lake.
The lady felt that she had reminded him of something he didn’t want to remember. “Well, I guess you have seen more of the world than me. I guess I’ll take your word for it,” the lady finally mentioned, trying to make him feel better.
The old man was now deep in thought, and suddenly asked, “Do you have the time? I am supposed to meet Gabriella today.”
“Who’s Gabriella?” asked the young lady.
“She’s…she’s…what time did you say it was?” the old man questioned.
“Quarter past ten,” said the lady.
“Thank you. She was supposed to be here by ten. She’s usually very punctual,” said the old man with a sense of pride.
“Maybe she got stuck in traffic,” said the young lady.
“Hmmm, maybe,” mumbled the old man as he slouched back onto the bench. He kept his cane on the side of the bench and put his hands into his jacket pockets. “It’s a little chilly today, isn’t it?” claimed the old man.
“Yes, it is, but it’s just right,” the young lady responded.
“Yes, of course. You young people like the cold a little too much,” smirked the old man.
He felt something in his pockets. He picked it out. It was a piece of paper carefully folded. It was crumpled. Makes you wonder how many times it was opened. It did look like it was taken care of very well.
“Could you see what this is, please? I forgot my reading glasses. I wonder how this got into my jacket,” he thought aloud.
“Sure,” said the lady, carefully opening the paper. She had to be very careful. The paper had turned yellow, the sides were torn, and it had significant wear and tear. Her hands were shaky, She was scared she would rip it. “Oh,” she exclaimed a little too loud.
“Is everything ok?” asked the old man, now concerned about the contents of the paper.
“Yes, yes,” said the lady. “This is a poem.”
“A poem? Now, who would write a poem and put it in my jacket?’ he wondered. “Would you mind reading it aloud please?” asked her.
“Well, sure, I guess,” said the lady. She started reading the poem.
To PopPop, Get well Soon
when I was sad, you made me smile.
when I was scared, you hugged me like a bear
when I was hurt, you took my pain away,
Now I am sad, that you are not here.
what happened to you, is not fair.
I love you poppop, wish I could take your pain away!
The old man was silent. He looked very content yet very sad at the same time. She looked at him. He was no longer listening. His eyes were filled with tears.
“Lovely poem,” said the lady and then carefully folded the paper and handed it to him.
He looked at her, his eyes still moist. “Thank you,” he said with a shaky voice and continued looking at the lake. She picked up her coffee cup, thanked the old man for his time, and started walking. As she walked, a lonely teardrop rolled through her cheek. It glistened in the sunlight and landed on the coffee cup, smudging the scribbled name that the barista had inscribed