God brings people into your life for a reason. I wholeheartedly believe that. Whether we realize it instantly or later on, people come in and out when you need them to.
It’s been over a week since I was able to go to the gym after little nugget got a terrible case of hand, foot, and mouth. Even tho he didn’t have a fever and acted happy, I couldn’t be “that mom” that took her child covered in blisters to kids club.
Usually I do high intensity classes with my bestie, but today I couldn’t get us out the door in time. So I decided to sit down and ride a stationary bike, listen to my jams, and read.
Instead I talked with an 80 year old man named John. He was a lovely gentleman and so kind. We chatted for about 30 minutes as we rode our bikes. He was full of stories. He kept saying. “I hope I’m not boring you or keeping you.” I honestly was not bothered, but rather enjoyed his conversation and company.
He told me stories from his childhood, where he grew up in Fort Smith Arkansas, how much he loved Italian food, and stories of his wife and losing loved ones.
As I write this, I am even more touched by him and his life stories. We just had a real conversation. Nothing of fluff, but real genuine talk.
He and I had several things in common. We both recently had a birthday, both went to Catholic school “all the way”, and he attended the University of Tulsa (like most of my family members). But most of all, he lived life to the fullest.
He was raised by his grandparents and was never blessed with children of his own. He survived pneumonia and both a cotton-head snake bite and a rabid dog bite. All of which made me think. Damn That’s hard.
I of course told him about my two little boys, my sweet husband and my family & spunky 93 year old grandma. I expressed how fast it goes and I’m so nervous when my boys go off to school in a couple weeks.
He told me about a bully in school that teased him for having red hair everyday at noon. “I’d rather be dead than be red on the head” he would say. After weeks of this, he responded with “Well you know what? I’d rather be red than dead in the head.” This angered the bully who took a swing at him and missed. John swung back and knocked him out. He felt proud. He then spotted a nun out of the corner of his eye, and she grabbed his hand and said “God bless your hand child.” Hahaha yes!
John continued to tell me stories of his best friend Jimmy from Italy. They became close during high school and he enjoyed dinners at his home. He loves Italian food and played football. He reminisced about one year his coach, a priest, gave them all a St. Christopher medal that he blest to protect them. He gave me a big smile and said look. The chain I had noticed him wearing held that same St Christopher charm. I said “maybe that’s how you got this far?” he said, “I think so too.”
He doesn’t have any family left other than his wife, yet he said “Life is pretty good if you know how to live it.” After a long weekend of celebrating my birthday with those I hold dear, it makes me more thankful that I have my family and friends with me.
When he and his wife went to pick out their resting plots in Fort Smith, Jimmy asked John to be his brother, and share a spot in their family plot. So even though John didn’t have any living relatives, he still had Jimmy as his bro.
I could have smiled, nodded and put my headphones back in, but I didn’t. I so desperately wanted my alone time at the gym today. Instead I made a new friend. One that I’m sure I learned a great deal from.
Sometimes we need to stop and listen.
He told me a final story about his grandfather, who worked nights at a smelter plant in town. They did everything together during the day as he was growing up. Fishing, hunting, trapping etc.
He said when his grandfather passed away from brain cancer, his grandma told him to stay at a friends house the night he passed.
The next morning, he went home and saw his grandparents’ bed empty and he knew he was gone. His grandma said she held her husbands hand as he told her “don’t worry about me, Babe, I’m going to see my mama, daddy, and brothers.” And he died right after he spoke those words.
I got teary eyed as he told me. But then he stopped me and said “I felt that way too for a long time, but now, I hope I am that happy and brave when it’s my time to go.”
I live in a constant state of fear. For my boys, my sissy, my parents, my grandma and myself. I don’t want to die young. I think taking some time to come to the gym and talk with my new friend John is what I needed today. Perspective on this life and how sweet it can be. Not competing or comparing. Not to pity or worry. But to share our stories and be real.
I am so thankful that God spoke to me through John today. I needed his guidance and kindhearted smile. We ended our talk with a smile and a handshake. He told me to be safe and remember “Growing old ain’t for sissies.”
Just Happy Mommy