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Friday, December 25, 2015

The Old Man In the Window Is Me…

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all our friends in the BCB audience. It is snowing hard here in Lovely Ouray this morning, a beautiful sight to behold. For now we are warm and snug by the fire, but will venture out soon and work up an appetite for a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. The following is a Christmas Post blast from the past. I thought it appropriate to republish as a gentle reminder of Christmas's past and future. Love to all, Mark and Bobbie.

In the face of bitter cold and deep snow, we opted for a "civilized" potty stop at a Mc Donalds in Delta, Colorado. While waiting on my tiny-bladder soulmate, I succumbed to the window ad for "Oatmeal with real fruit." It tasted like a revolting concoction of wallpaper paste and sawdust... topped with raisins. Food photos can be misleading. 

On the brink of Christmas we departed on a mad adventure—endured predawn darkness, deer in headlights, slick roads, sub-zero temperatures, multiple black-iced mountain passes, and seven hours behind the wheel—all in order to be with "family." We managed to slide into metro Denver unscathed, just in the Saint Nick of time to rescue son Caleb from the bumper to bumper, nuts to butts holiday chaos at DIA.

Ten minutes to noon, in the cold and slush and exhaust fumes of the pick-up lane, I was man-hugging a muscular six foot three, thirty-something man… the once little boy I read fairy tales to only "yesterday," or so it seemed. It was one of those moments where one wonders if "the clock" skipped a decade or two. I felt old and tired after the white-knuckle drive, crumpled by his strong arms and youth. 

Since that potty stop in Delta I mused about the flight of time, how it seems to accurate just when you want it to slow down. The days of our middle lives were a blur, much like the pedals on Caleb's tricycle when, only "yesterday," he sped headlong down our driveway, feet on handlebars, oblivious to fear and tomorrows.

Being ripped from the graceful slow-paced environs of Lovely Ouray and thrust into competitive expressway driving tends to bring out the old man in me. I had to fight tooth an nail for a little notch of freeway "turf" amongst suburban SUV crazies and unyielding bully-truckers in waning rush hour lead-up to Christmas. It shattered my nostalgia. Everything was happening at a pace that I was perfectly comfortable with "yesterday," but now, not so much. I didn't belong in the left lane anymore, weaving in and out of traffic with wide-eyed Metrophiles in order to shave a minute. It took nearly a mile to "multitask" four lanes right to catch the off-ramp... signaling, checking mirrors, gesturing, cursing, pleading. I could have used a few c c's of youthful aggression and assertiveness… or a gun. I've guess I've been spoiled by Lovely Ouray and lonely backroads. I'm not equipped to step back into the "rat race." Hell, Ouray is a nursing home compared to Denver. I'm reminded of how, if one lives long enough, life eventually circles back to childhood's uncoordinated missteps… tricycles instead of bicycles.  “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again" (C. S. Lewis). Oh goody, something to look forward to... all wrapped up for Christmas, with a nice little bow on it.

Christmas Eve… sipping coffee in the "nothing is stirring, not even a mouse" predawn quietness, rubbing sleep from eyes and creases from face. An unthinkable one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle splays out on a table like confetti; a Christmas tree, swamped to it's under-branches with gifts, vibrates under lights that pulse and flicker. I use this sedated moment to download a few photos from camera to laptop. 

A random toss away shot at first glance, jumps out at second glance. My index finger hovers over "Delete." Pull the trigger. It's a boring photo, one where I tried to capture a reflection of winter in the window of that Mc Donald's we stopped at in Delta. It's lame. But my eyes refocus, and are drawn to a smaller photo within the photo. Cropping away reflections of winter snow reveals "winter" of another sort. Caught like a "metaphor" in headlights, the Last Season of Life. 

There's an old man, frozen in time. I study his face, observe his "winter" from my "fall." He has elder-sized ears and nose. A Veteran's cap sits askew on his head, an old solider, maybe, with so many stories. I wonder if they have been told, or if there is anyone to tell. If not, they will accompany him to the grave, lost forever. I study his turn-down turtle mouth... something of a frown. A glance in the rearview mirror reveals a similar mouth forming on my own face. Could be an early "winter" coming on.

His hand and fingers appear supple, like maybe a pianist or saxophone player, as he reaches for a french fry. His expression appears to be one of discontent, maybe resignation. Is he a widower? Is he alone… children and grandchildren too far away? Why aren't they there? Why is he sitting alone at Christmas in a Mc Donalds? I feel sad… for him, yet in some way for me, the future me. 

I want to go to him... give him a hug like Caleb gave me at the airport... invite him to our Christmas dinner and 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. I swear to God, if I see this old man again I will engage him, shake his supple skinned hand, give him a solid hug and shower him some love and attention. 
This, from a photo I almost deleted.


Merry Christmas, everyone. In the spirit of this post, include or call someone who is alone and/or in the winter of life this holiday season. Soon enough, there go I, there go thee.


  1. Merry Christmas to you and Bobbie. Enjoy your snow covered hikes.
    You are certainly correct about how time picks up velocity at the end. Thanks time!

  2. Merry Christmas to you both. Remember to wear shorts on your hike today, after all it is tradition. :)

  3. This post coincides with my state of mind last night as I saw my brother-in-laws parents for the first time in a year and could easily see how they are slipping towards the end of their life...it saddens me even though it is inevitable and I wished to soften the ride for them a bit if I could.

    Wishing you and Bobbie a safe and happy Christmas and a year of good health and fun adventures ahead.

  4. We're all guilty of woulda, coulda, shoulda moments. When you took the photo, you probably didn't see him, otherwise you probably WOULD have engaged him. And BTW, he is not you. At his age, you'll be sitting in a snow drift somewhere, hot cocoa cupped in your hands, having told your stories. And STILL telling them, we hope. Merry Christmas to you and Bobbie, youngster.

  5. Merry Christmas! We so enjoy the blog.

  6. Mark,
    From a Bonnie Raitt song: time becomes more precious when there is less of it to waste...

  7. Well done, Mark. Your keen perspective has brought awareness that we all experience and I appreciate your putting it into words that could not have. I hope you and Bobbie had a good Christmas and best wishes for a healthy 2016.

  8. Wishing you and Bobbie a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year....

  9. Hope you and Bobbie had a wonderful wintery Christmas with another amazing snowy hike:) Love the header!

    Wishing you two a healthy and very Happy New Year!

  10. Great header shot. How you do like extremes. And a wonderful, and a little scary, story. Hope you had a Merry Christmas.

  11. Fabulous first shot. The title is just how I feel when I look in the mirror brushing my teeth. How is this possible. Sounds lovely where you are and what I'd love for Christmas. Somehow in the Florida Keys it just doesn't seem like the holiday.

  12. So poignant. Winter will come for us all -- if we're lucky to live long enough. And if we're really lucky, there will be those who care enough to "see" us, to not just let us fade into the background. This is why we're in Florida, hanging out with my 84-year old mom and 87-year old dad, listening to their stories that we've heard a hundred times, playing board games, watching old black and white movies, sharing dinners together. Doing nothing much, but every bit of it is precious.


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