The first time I saw the elderly man in the blue jacket was four weeks ago when I was released from the hospital and forcing myself to eat breakfast. Food had lost its flavor to me. I was eating to survive, but not eating toenjoy—very much unlike me.
While trying to chew on the buttery croissant that tasted rather dry to my dormant taste buds, I flashbacked to when I was still living at home about five year earlier. I had this routine to walk up and down my parents’ residential street with gusto and vigor as way to get in my exercise. Nearly at the end of the street, this man had shown his fenced in garden of tomatoes with pride to me. He still wore his blue jacket back then.
I looked outside, and saw he was still the same in his blue jacket, thick and black-framed glasses sliding down his nose, and tan hat with the orange rim. He just looked older with the delicately etched wrinkles and his back hunched over more than I remembered when I last saw him years ago.
I asked my dad, “Dad, do you know him? What’s his name?”
My dad shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. The only thing my dad said was, “I just know he walks every morning.”
I looked out the window, watching the man in the blue jacket with intrigue and interest. A bubbling feeling began to simmer inme. It was a sixth sense feeling aboutthis man. I think we all get those feelings about certain people who are somehow meant to play a part in your life at certain times. I strangely and unexplainably believed that my path was going to cross with this man. I didn’t know when or how. But, I felt in my gut feeling that it was going to happen now that I was back in the luxuries of my parents’ home.
Without expectations or thinking much more about the man in the blue jacket, though, I continued with my forced and unnatural routine of getting up every single morning to go for a walk rather than go to work. Luckily, this time of the autumn year is my favorite with the crisp fresh air and gorgeous golden leaves.
Every morning since I was cut into has been the worst. Getting up and out of bed is an obligatory struggle and hurdle that I overcome daily. I have to sit on the edge of the bed for a moment before I unfold myself. As soon as I unfold is when the punch in the stomach or the abdominal muscles being plucked abrasively by an angry and belligerent child who is abusing a musical instrument begins. I often wish there isa magical button I could push to tell me to disappear for the duration of pain and then push the button again when the pain is gone forever for me to return then. I would love a life of simple,easy, and surfaced shortcuts—a life that I have never really known.
My morning walks are a source of great comfort and happiness to me. It is in the surroundings of simplicities and natural beauty of Mother Nature that I am at restful peace and pain is somewhat waned. I’ve also been so greatly fortunate to have dear friends walk at my slow and nearly shuffled pace. On our walks, we discuss deeply and laugh lightly as to not aggravate my sore belly. However, during this time of healing, I am discovering that my greatest sense of contentment derives from listening. I do not want to talk or speak as much. I just want to listen and hear my friends, my family, and my everything around me living and breathing life as it goes on. I want to be still with my quiet will that fills me up with fulfillment.
I do not recall on which one of my walks I bumped into the man in the blue jacket. I just know that he was walking around the corner to return back home, and I was about to walk around that corner to continue my serene walk. We nearly smacked right into each other.
He lifted his head. I could no longer see the tan hat with the orange rim. Rather, I saw a wide grin and crooked teeth on a beautifully wrinkled face. His eyes brightened and he exclaimed, “Miss Mary! How are you? I see you are walking quite a lot now!”
I paused. I was internally mortified that this gentleman who must have been in his late 70’s remembered my name, while all I could remember was him showcasing his proud tomatoes to me years ago. I tried not to reveal how badly I felt that I forgot his name, and racked my brain of how I could find it out. But, instead, I said, “Yes, I’m staying with my folks now to recover from surgery. Walking is helping me to recuperate.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry tohear that you had surgery. Good thing you are with your folks.”
“Yes, it is! I’m really lucky! I see you walking a lot and all the time,too!”
The man in the blue jacket told me, “Yes, you know, I live all the way down there, and that dang incline all the way up here is so difficult at times. I don’t want to walk up it, but I have to. I’m hoping that it will get easier someday…one day. But, it’s okay and worth it because I get to see so much on my walks.”
For the average person, his statement would have meant nothing. Not a second thought would have gone into it. Me? I am the painstaking over-analyzer that practically inhaled his statement with a strong need to chew on, digest, and interpret. His statement made me stop in awe and amazement that what he said rang true with what I was going through now. I was probably at one of my lowest physical, emotional, and mental points right now, but I was forced to go through it and forced to go up and through this ‘incline’ in life with every hope to hold on to that this long journey was going to get easier.
It would be so much simpler and easier if there was a shortened and shortcut version of this journey, but would it be worth it? Would it be better? Would I be better? Would I be as grateful for all the gems of joy and people who have surprised me, for the hardest hurdles I’ve faced and overcome, and for a person of character and substance that I strive to become? I think not. And, so this long journey was and process was going to be scary and difficult, but it was all going to be worth it when this was all over with.
My prediction that my path would cross with the man in the blue jacket was meant to be. Life, or some kind of higher power, was remarkable and magical in bringing certain people into our lives at certain times. This man from my past was someone I had nearly no contact with, yet here he was right now for me with a gifted statement, reminder, and presence of ‘hope’ to go forward into and with my future.
Just when I was about to dig deeper and say more, the man in the blue jacket said that he best be going now. I wanted him to stay. I nearly stopped him. I wanted us to discuss in-depth more. But, just as quickly as we bumped into eachother, he was suddenly gone.
And, I suddenly felt very alone and lonely.
The catch about long journeys is that they are handmade and homemade gifts that do not have theglitz and glamour of purchased items, but they are full of love and sweat to create into a final masterpiece. Journeys are also very lonesome—no matter how many loved ones are there to be by your side and support you the best they can, you are still the one that must go through it all alone with your own inner demons to face and fight and/or sit and be still with.
It has been going on 4 weeks since my cantaloupe cut-out. I’ve been counting every single day. I’ve been taking in and living every day, trying to find my spunky and energetic self who has been temporarily wiped out.
4 weeks with my parents and sister who I am eternally grateful for. 4 weeks of being in the cozy comfort and familiarity of my parents’ home.
4 weeks of walking every single day alone and with others who have been generous and kind with their precious time with me.
4 weeks without work for me, and waiting for me to recover and for ‘normalcy’ and ‘routine’ to return.
4 weeks of trying to come back fully to the living world again.
4 weeks, and I only had this one short-lived and long-filled encounter with the man in the blue jacket who lives down the street. He forces his aging body and himself to walk up the incline every day with every hope that it will get easier someday. I force myself to stay focused on this unexpectedly long and slow journey that has been laden with hurdles, happiness, and hopes.
We both walk. We both keep the hope that it will get easier. Someday. One day.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,