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7.26.2013

THE STORY OF THE ROAD TO SOMEWHERE


I watched him get out of a white mini van. [Why DO old people drive mini vans - they don't have kids any more!] He had an interesting aura about him; mid-thigh belted khaki safari shorts, a horizontal striped wife-beaterish type tank top which was ribbed in the same khaki color tucked succinctly into his belted shorts, dyed reddish colored hair, and regular eye glasses pushed back in his oddly colored hair.  He was neither thin or overweight, but appeared somewhat still in relatively good shape for a man his age. The complete package of him seemed interesting to me and made me curious.  He didn't look familiar and my mind raced as I saw he was headed toward my office door.  Had I met him before?  If I had, what was his name?

Sometimes I ask questions to garner information, other times I say very little hoping the person will give me what I need without me asking it.  I chose the later with him.  I hoped he would offer his name up front so I wouldn't have to ask - clearly giving away the fact that I couldn't place who he was. 

I picked up a hint of an east coast accent mish-mashed in with his hard to understand  sentences.  It wasn't the accent that kept me from getting all the words, but something in his speech, his mouth, his teeth kept it from being clear.  He talked.  A lot.  I listened.  A lot.  I was ok with that as I felt as if I were getting to take the lid off a jar and peer into its contents.

Mason apologized for his hard to understand speech while lightly shielding his mouth with his hand, "I don't know how anyone understands a word I say with these blasted teeth of mine!"  His east coast accent bubbled out in bits even through his cobbled mushy sentences.  I commented on his accent to which he responded, "I lived in Baltimore, Maryland until I was 48.  That was 33 years ago.  I don't think I have an accent any more."  He did.  It was a lot like his face - though changed with age no doubt, it still held features that he had probably had all his life.

I asked him a few questions.  He gave me lots of answers and delved right into the timeline and story of his life.  [As he spoke I thought about lives - about how we all live one - about how sometimes in old people we don't take time to remember they lived a life - about how once again everyone has a story, a journey, a road they have travelled]  I find people's lives interesting.  I enjoy hearing their travels, their choices, the outcome of their decisions/work/family.  His was poignantly real and detailed.

I heard about his young marriage before he finished college, having kids, making a living doing things he wasn't passionate about until his kids got in college.  He told me about going back to college to get his engineering degree at the age of 40 something.  He spoke about his restless spirit at age 48 that caused him to divorce his wife and move to Wichita, Kansas for a feasibility engineering job - but only after he knew his kids had their college degrees and were off on their own lives. He plowed on as though he was unashamed and just needed to say it all out loud.  I listened.

[I wondered about the reddish dyed hair.  Was it just a way that he felt made him younger?  No man at 81 years of age has that color of hair.  His hair seemed to match his always questing spirit.]

After he got to Wichita, a woman he had worked with back east decided to move to Wichita as well... "She moved in, and 33 years later she is still there though we never got formally married." he said with a chuckle.  He told me he wanted an adventure so he moved to Wichita and wanted to be single as he had gotten married so very young.  He laughed again over the fact that was not how it played out after all.

I continued to not say much other than the occasional hmmm or wow.  I dropped in a few questions here and there but he continued to just speak the entire journey of his life to me.  [I wondered how much of his talking was from a need he had to tell, to talk or how much of it was some vibe I always seemed to give off that perfect strangers felt safe to tell me their stories, their secrets, to cry.  Either way, I found myself drawn into the story of his life.]

He continued on about his work, the feasibility studies he did for car companies and the like.  "I retired at 75 years of age.  Well really I retired before that and then became a feasibility consultant.  That is until at age 75 I was turned down for employment because a company felt I was too old."  I laughed and told him that somebody or other usually thinks something about us!

 
I continued to visually take Mason in.  He was an interesting dichotomy of things - both visual and spoken.  It took me back to the search for significance.  What had made him feel a sense of significance , even when he had a restless heart for a season?  What gave him significance right now I wondered?  Maybe this - his telling his story and me listening.
 

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