Tuesday, April 03, 2007
A Man of All Ages
There is an old man, he could be 76 or 96 but I prefer to think of him as a Man of Ages, living in my neighbourhood.This Man of Ages, walks through my neighbourhood and I have observed him for years. His face is old. He has deep, deep, wrinkles, a fine, weathered face, a face which is riddled with character and stories. He is bald with a bit of stubble where side burns should be, he wears horned rimmed glasses from the fifties. He is five feet tall but he seems to loom as he walks up our main strip with purpose. He wears a knapsack on his back and he always dresses in khakis either long kahakis in the winter or army shorts in the summer. He dons a desert hat, over his shaved head and his legs do not have a hair on them. He is always wears hiking boots, with wool socks when he walks. And when he walks, he bounces. His gait is long and his arms firmly to his sides. He walks with determination staring ahead with his head level and his shoulders pulled back and his chest out. He commands the space around him and beckons space ahead of him, all in a walk.
I have been in the park on occasion and have observed him cycling on a ten speed. He wears the unitard and the proper cycling cleats, he is out of his khakis and in a cycling uniform with a cycling cap and no helmet. I have seen him cycle with young whippersnappers in their twenties. I have heard him yell at them in Polish as they whoosh by training together.
I have heard him belt out 'Faster!Faster!' in English as they trail him.
I have heard him use his age as a taunt. I have heard him say' I am an old man, you can not let an old man beat you! Have pride!' He is challenging the young men to keep the pace. To keep his fast pace, and not for one lap, but for twenty uphill. And I stand holding my breath in amazement.
I have never had the opportunity to talk with this man, this Man of Ages, who is so part of the walking scenery in which I live. I have often asked my other friends and neighbours if they had ever noticed 'my' man in hopes of getting an introduction to him. But when I describe him, they draw a blank. They have never seen my man or at least taken note.
I find it odd, as I think he takes up the street, he is a defining person of the neighbourhood in which I live, he commands the world when he bounces by and I find it peculiar that he has gone unnoticed by my group. I think he is king of the world, but apparantly only in my world. A world in which I wished to know part of his story, for there had to be a few good stories in the leathery markings on his face.
The opportunity arose innocently enough this past week. I had the opportunity to talk with 'my' man. I walked into a dollar store to pick up a bottled water,and to my surprise I saw my man at the counter talking with the store owner. I must have looked shocked, maybe, I even blushed, at seeing him, so anchored to the counter, so at ease, and me so unprepared to see him upclose and not at my comfortable distance to observe. He drew me into in the store with a joust.
'Come in ! Come in! Don't be shy, Come in!' he blurts.
And with his comment suspended in the air, I am jostled to my reason for entering the store.
I hear, My Man, call for me at the back of the tiny five and dime store.
'Miiiissis, Miiiissis... This man here, dis store owner is such a lovely man, he is...' he belts out.
And as I approached the counter with my water I agreed with a smile toward the owner.
'Miiiissis, do you know where he is from?'
And I was flabberghasted as it seems like an innocent question enough, but I had not thought of the shopkeeper as anything other than a shopkeeper... A one dimensional, stationary, being... And I have embarassed myself with my lack of knowledge and prejudice in my wee village of a street.
I look at him, my shopkeeper,and have never thought of his accent, never thought of his travels, never thought of him anywhere besides behind the counter.
I then try and save face by stammering out a reply of 'India?'
Miiiissis, he is a long way from where he started...He is from from Kenya.
And with that the shop owner smiled modestly.
Miiissis, Kenya is one of the most beautiful places on earth... And her people? Ohhh her people, are some of the loveliest to walk the planet...
And the shop owner smiled in accordance.
And with that I ask him, my Man of Ages, how he knows this information.
Well, Miiisusssss, I was a mapmaker for the UN. I miss Africa so much, so very much. Such a beautiful beautiful, country. I lived there for a very longtime, a very longtime. And the language? 30 different dialects of Swahili. Oh it is so beautiful to listen to. I come here to talk with my friend, here, and just listen....I owe dis man, dis man, so much, as he brings de winds of Kenya to me. He is a very good man, a very good man.
And with that he, my Man of Ages, and the Shopkeeper took me, dear blogger on a marvellous taste, of an adventure through Africa,but most importantly though Kenya.
And as I finished my bottled water, my ole man, my traveller, mapmaker extrodinaire who speaks many languages, and has no name and no age laughed and said 'You must be going I see.'
And I reluctantly said I did have a few errands ...
And he says with a wink' Do not tell your husband about me, I wouldn't want to make him jealous... And for him to beat me up. I am an old man, afterall.'
And somehow, that comment made me smile all day...As I finally had the chance to meet 'My' man, My Ageless Man, the man with many, many stories to tell...
I can not wait until I have the chance to talk with him again! And maybe it will be with my husband, but hopefully I am alone, as I truly want to listen and hear Kenya and her winds calling.