Saturday, July 24, 2010


My kids were a wreck yesterday from a week of VBS, fights in the backseat over songs and singing. I wondered what possessed me to go to the store at the (almost) dinner hour, for this task, with the kids.

I grabbed some color samples at The Home Depot. Shane insists on painting this weekend, and if I don't pick the colors, he will. The girls and I were about to leave the store when an old man approached us. High fives to the kids. He said he had fourteen sisters. He was one of twenty-two. I wondered why he sought me out.

"I bet it was fun with such a large family." I didn't know what to say, not having a large family and not coming from a large family. I wondered why he was still walking near me. Why was he sticking with me? And I sort of wanted to get on with this day's end, but inside me I knew I had to stop. I knew he wanted me to stop. He smiled faintly.

"It was nice growing up. But it is hard when they start dying. A lot of people never think of that part of a large family." His eyes filled with tears.

He turned to the kids. High fives again to the girls. Peek-a-boo with Erin. He asked their names. He told us his: Gabriel--he made a trumpeting motion, made a sound like a horn. And he told me so much more: that he'll be turning eighty this year, and he moved here (to the states) in the 1950s when he was twenty-five, and how everyone in his family said he was so lucky--but he didn't feel lucky, and he's got daughters and four grandsons.

And his wife died recently.
He's depressed.
He wants to die--and he told me so, plainly.

We stood there together wiping tears from our eyes. People passed by. I saw a friend of a friend there. She looked at us quizzically. A man I've lived next door to for eight years walked by ... he was buying light bulbs. Yet in fifteen minutes, I connected more deeply with and knew more about Gabriel than the other two. I looked deeply into his tearful eyes. Held tightly to his hand. Hugged him.

He thanked me for listening. I held his hand tighter still, "I will never forget you, Gabriel."

I can't stop thinking about him or how his almost eighty-year journey brought him to a day where we'd meet at The Home Depot and he'd tell me about his broken heart. And I wonder if I will ever see him again.

No comments: