I spoke with an old man today. He was garrulous; liked talking of his many battles, small and big; and perhaps was a tad full of himself. But he was also full of the wisdom of age: not a small thing at all these days.
In Western culture – at least the one I inhabit – we don’t often give much credit to the older souls amongst us. Mebbe we should.
Anyhow. This is what I gleaned from him during the conversation:
The people who believe they are closest know nothing about you – even as they assume they know what is best.
The people who keep their distance, and only want to get close as you indicate your disposition, are those who truly have your best interests at heart.
When you confuse the two, and find it difficult to know where to turn or who to turn to, is when you will regret serious errors of judgement. You will, however, learn from these mistakes – and emerge a far better human being.
As you learn to live by and rely on yourself, so you realise you make better company than you ever thought.
One day – you will know this day too, without doubt! – you will meet the person you were truly meant to share your life, love, business and work with. If you doubt at all, the day has not arrived. All you need to do is be patient.
Patience is more than a virtue: it is the hub around which life itself actually revolves.
Of course, after all these wondrous whirls of wisdom, I then felt obliged to ask the man if the penultimate piece of his genial thought – that singular, beautiful, kindly and compassionate day he said we all should count on experiencing – had ever, also, become real for him. He was perhaps in his late sixties or early seventies. I assumed, therefore, that the answer would be yes.
All he was able to do at first was smile quietly. Then – after a gentle beat and pause – he finally did bring himself to nod ever so slowly, and – clearly – ever so lovingly as well.
And so I looked into his eyes and saw the beauty that lay within.
And he saw the question I was forming.
And so he formed the answer he manifestly knew I needed.
I was seven years old. She was three years older. Her name was Jane. We lived across the road from each other. I remember playing every day: me, in her garden; she, in mine. Sometimes, inside my house. Sometimes, inside hers.
So often, too, those long walks in the nearby park. I do remember those walks.
One day quite on, I must have been around seven and three-quarters, I got up, got quickly dressed and ran out with such speed – without even having my breakfast. I knocked on her front door, and after a minute or so heard steps. The door opened, and such a strange face did present itself. It was kindly, don’t get me wrong – kindly and smiling for sure. But equally, it was unknown. Equally, an utter stranger.
“Where’s Jane?” I asked, for some reason a little timorously – this, quite before I even knew the term existed.
“Jane?” The stranger put a quizzical look alongside the friendly smile.
“Yes. My friend, Jane. She’s ten and a half. She lives here.”
“Lives here?” The smile broadened rapidly, as understanding then flashed suddenly from rosy cheek to cheek.
“Ahh! I see your confusion. Of course. Did nobody say? Jane, your friend,” said pointedly I felt, even though I was only seven and three-quarters, “and her family have all gone.”
“Yes!” The smile got broader still. “Gone. All gone!”
“Oh,” I finally replied. “Thank you. Goodbye.”
The old man was quiet for such a long time. I barely dared to ask more.
Instead, I waited. Patience, after all …
Then he looked up from his memories and smiled that gentle look, that beloving gaze, and that beautiful beautiful glance: almost snatching from the past the love he could even now taste.
It’s all right.
And I had to ask him, and so I did.
And I had to pursue the thought, and so I did.
No one else.
And I couldn’t leave it at that, and so I didn’t.
Because patience is everything in life. I’m still alive. And who knows? Maybe today we will find each other. And if not today again, then tomorrow perhaps. Tomorrow, for sure my friend.