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Senescence

Little old men– bodies stooped and hesitant , hands shakey and spotted, eyes faded and gentled, voices gravelly and subdued, faces lined and slackened–somehow steal my heart.

I was eating out with friends today when three such gentlemen arrived for what must have been a special outting for them. They could have been in their late seventies but at least one had to be an octogenarian.He was slowly helped to his seat by the two shuffling buddies, each supporting a thin, limp arm. It took at least five minutes for them to get him seated and pulled to the table. He looked confused but cooperative as his younger friends worked with a kind determination that took much of their waning strength to get him settled. When they were finally able to sit themselves, there was much huffing and puffing and chortling at themselves for the effort they had put out and the success they had achieved.

As I ate I couldn’t take my eyes from this wonderful threesome. The eldest and most feeble one had dressed, or someone had dressed him, in “Sunday clothes”, and his sparse white hair was neatly parted and slicked to his head. He spoke very little and nodded a lot.He looked like his name could be Jim, perhaps because he reminded me of someone. His friends were more casually dressed, but neat and one had on wide red suspenders and a baseball type cap, but took it off and placed it in the extra chair beside him. His gray hair stood up in the back when he pulled the cap off and I wanted to give him a hug. I thought his name could be Bud.

It was a buffet meal, and Jim sat silently while Bud went through the line to get Jim’s food. Bud was gone at least 15 minutes but when he returned it was with a huge grin on his face and a precariously balanced tray with a feast of mashed potatoes and gravy, butter beans and meatloaf. Then he was off again to get his own dinner which was a duplicate of the first plate. The third friend got corn on the cob and fried chicken, so I decided he must have the best teeth or dentures and digestive system of the three. He looked like a Joe.

A fair amount of grunting came from the table as repast was taken very slowly and deliberately, and I took the sounds to signal appreciation of the meal. The waitress Dian (she wore a name tag) was very attentive to this group, and they enjoyed bandying humorous dialogue with their female server.They clearly enjoyed the attention and Bud and Joe were all but standing on their heads to elicit a laugh from the pretty young Dian. Jim used this time to examine his meatloaf before each bite, as if reminding himself what he was eating.

I had to go before they were finished, and I made a point of walking by their table, catching Bud’s eye and smiling hello. He gave me a somewhat surprised return smile and the most gentlemanly nod I’ve ever seen.

Jim, Bud and Joe have been on my mind off and on all day. Something about their quiet dignity and Bud and Joe’s friendship with Jim really touched me. I sincerely hope that I have such good old buddies when my golden years arrive.

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