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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Man In The Window

In the face of bitter cold and deep snow, a rare "civilized" potty stop was made at Mc Donalds. While waiting on my tiny bladdered soulmate, I succumbed to the lure of an ad for oatmeal with real fruit, which, in reality, tasted like a nutritionally vapid and revolting concoction of wallpaper paste and sawdust... topped with raisins. Those food photos are misleading. 

On the brink of Christmas we departed on a mad road-rush mission... enduring predawn darkness, deer in headlights, slick roads, sub-zero temps, multiple black-iced mountain passes and nearly seven hours behind the wheel... in order to be with "family." But we managed to slide into metro Denver safe and sound, just in the Saint Nick of time to recue son, Caleb, from bumper to bumper holiday chaos at DIA.

Ten minutes to noon, I was man-hugging a muscular six foot two thirty-something guy in the pick-up lane... the same guy I was reading fairy tales to only "yesterday." It was one of those moments where one swears they hear "the clock" ticking. I felt old, crumpled in the strong arms of youth. On the expressway drive to Golden I thought about aging, how time has a way of accelerating toward that moment approaching "terminal velocity," when the days of our lives take on a blur much like the pedals on Caleb's tricycle, when only "yesterday" he raced headlong down our driveway, feet on handlebars, oblivious to fear and tomorrow.

Being out of my natural, slow-paced, "element" in Lovely Ouray doesn't help... competing for a notch of freeway "turf" amongst urban crazies in the stressful waning rush hour lead-up to Christmas, "Blur," suddenly flips from metaphor to literal. All things "metro," happening at a pace that I was perfectly comfortable with "yesterday"... if not downright impatient. It was weird, feeling like I don't belong in the left lane anymore, weaving in and out with the Metrophiles. It took well over a mile for me to "multitask" four lanes to the right... signaling, checking mirrors, gesturing, conversing... all while keeping tract of my upcoming off ramp. I could have used a few c c's of youthful aggression and assertiveness. 

Let's face it, I'm not equipped to step back into the "rat race."  Lovely Ouray seems like a nursing home compared to Denver... and reminds me of the pen dribbles from a very wise man who long ago wrote, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again” (C. S. Louis). Something to look forward to, something to dread... all wrapped up for Christmas, with a nice little bow on it.

And now, Christmas Eve... in the six am quietness of alarm clock-less holiday... rubbing sleep from eyes and sipping coffee... an unthinkable one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle splayed out like confetti, a Christmas tree, swamped to it's under-branches with gifts. The pulse of life is momentarily sedated, so I use this quiet time to download photos to my laptop. 

A random toss away shot at first glance, jumps out at second glance. My finger anxiously hovers over the "Delete" button, "Pull the trigger!" It's a boring photo of winter as seen through the reflection of a Mc Donald's window, the one where we potty-stopped. It seems truly lame, but my eye is drawn to a smaller picture within the picture. I crop away reflections of winter 2012 and zoom in on "winter" of another sort. Caught like a deer in headlights, was a metaphor for the last season of Life. 

There's an old, old man in my "looking glass," frozen in time. I study his face, seeing his "winter" as it looks from my "fall." He has elder sized ears and nose. A Veteran's cap sits askew on his head and nearly touches eyebrows... an old solider with stories that will likely accompany him to the grave, lost forever, forgotten. I study his turn-downed turtle mouth... something of a frown. A glance in the rearview mirror reveals a similar mouth forming on my own face. Is it late fall? or early winter?

His hand and fingers appear supple, like a pianist or saxophone player, as he reaches for another french fry. He is in the middle of winter, in the middle of "winter." Whether it's one of discontent or resignation, I cannot tell. Is he a widower? Is he all alone... children too far away? Why aren't they here? Why is he sitting alone at Christmas time in a Mc Donalds? I feel a sadness welling... it's for him, yet in some way it's for me, too... the future me. I want to go fetch him... give him a hug like Caleb gave me... invite him to our family Christmas... smother him with attention... listen to his stories of growing up, the war, and how it is getting along in the "winter" of life.  

I have neither grandparents nor parents to hug and wish Merry Christmas anymore. I swear to God, if I could find this man again, I would engage him... adopt him... hug him... love him. 
All this from a photo I almost deleted.


Merry Christmas, everyone. In the spirit of this post, try to include or call someone who is alone and in the winter of their life this holiday season. Soon enough, there go we.
Mark and Bobbie


  1. Thank you for this beautiful post. How true that we see, but barely, those around us. And yes, although I've been trying to fight time and gravity for ever, there too walk I.

    Have a wonderful Christmas with your family.

  2. Another amazing post and photo. You enlighten our world.

    Thank you for your insightful blog.

    Happy holidays from our family to yours.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story... All too often our seniors are neglected and forgoten. Lonelyness is a terrible thing...

    Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year...


  4. A truly outstanding post Mark. Your words and photo bring to mind an old African Proverb: "Time is a great story teller". Merry Christmas to you, Bobbie, and family too!

    John and Ellen

  5. Well written thought provoking post Mark.

    In the last year or so I have found my appreciation of older folks more genuine and meaningful.
    No one should really take for granted their elderly family members, neighbors etc...They deserve our attention and love.
    All the best to you and Bobbi.

  6. Such a beautiful post Mark. Wishing you and Bobbie and Caleb and MOAB Merry Christmas. Cheers, M & E

  7. Your description of driving Denver is a chilling memory. Description of McDonalds food is right on. Haven't had any of McDonalds in about four decades. Guess it hasn't changed much.

    Fantastic photo. Definitely a keeper.

  8. Thank you for a beautiful post. I always miss my parents at Christmas, even though I am probably into my own early "winter." Thank you again for a very poignant post.

  9. A great post, thank you so much, and a happy Christmas to you and your family

  10. An awesome post, especially at Christmas. It sometimes takes me hours to figure which season I'm in each day. Late Fall to early Winter. Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

  11. I am thankful and blessed to be with family. Thank you Dad for all that your are and do. I love you very much! -Caleb

  12. Great picture . Looking at a map, Lovely Ouray-to-Denver looks like one of those 'You can't get there from here' kind of trips, especially in winter!
    Merry Christmas to you and family.

  13. Oh Shoot...I have so much to say in response to your post..I have been there and I'm now still there..If I went on "some" would say I need my own blog...So I'll just again wish you and your family well..maybe even the wellest!! Hope the ride home is without anything unpleasant.

  14. Thanks for your heart warming post. As always, it lifts me and sends me to a better place. Being in my twilight years, I will appreciate my family more today. Shalom to you and your family......Laverne

  15. You have an eye and a voice.

    Merry Christmas

  16. Best post I've read the entire season...you can sure make the words dance and bring such a heart warming perspective...thank you for that story!Merry Christmas....

  17. Great writing and a great photo, also. Several years ago my husband befriended an older man in our neighborhood, we invited him to family dinners and BBQs - he was very grateful to have a new "family".

  18. Thank you all for your kind words and holiday wishes. You are incredible.

  19. I swear you are my kindred soul/brother...

    but I do hope you didn't get the flu for Christmas too!

  20. As one who spends 95% of my life solo, this one moved me to tears.

    But equally resonating was the other side of the story as told by blogger Carolyn of amigoingsomeplace.blogspot.com, who was approached while alone in her van by an uninvited stranger on Christmas morning. She joked perhaps a sign, "Here by choice" was in order.

    SO hard to know! "I've looked at life from both sides now..."

  21. Mark you know I've been with you from the beginning and I must say IMO, this was your most glorious post, some of your best prose and thinking.

    Marc & I made our Christmas dinner on Dec. 24th then packaged most of it up to take around to a couple of my former seniors on Christmas. Both were alone with no familly or friends (save us) and afflicted enough not to be able to really cook anymore. It turned out to be such a joyful day for us and did indeed, bring home the true spirit of the holiday.

    Enjoy your time with your family and getting back on the road soon.

  22. I look forward to your posts every day but in the business of the holidays this one got by me. I am so glad that Al pointed it out. It is amazing. The photo captured the essence of the moment as few do. The words you spoke touched my heart in a place I rarely allow myself to go. Thank-you Mark for his heartfelt post this Christmas. And the very best to you and Bobby. Every day is a blessing to be fully experienced!!


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