Love Me, I am Old

The old man ran his fingers through his woolly head, and glanced at the old clock on his mantle in eager anticipation. He leaned thoughtfully back on the faded, rose chair, that had been one of his first posses­sions in the “new country.” Reminiscently, he smiled, “Ya, they were good children.”

Just yesterday he’d been telling that old Mr. Gregior in the other room, his boy Billie had just been moved up to assistant clerk at the department store! “Ya, Billie had it in him to go far,” he smiled proudly. Oh, did it really matter that his wife was so modem, she never cared about the old days; after all when one was young one had no need for an old man’s memories; you had your own life then.

“And then there was Hans,” the old man’s face flushed proudly. His “little Hans” was learning at a great school, and some day he would become a great man. What did it matter that his ideas were so strange, this was a new time and the things of the old country, those were behind now. Ya, Hans was so smart and so busy with all his many friends. Yesterday he’d tried to explain to Mr. Gregior how Hans was so busy with learning and that in his free time . . . well he knew, the old man chuckled, “a young handsome boy with a promising future . . . well there were these things called dates, of course a young boy had not always time to visit and talk with and old man, who could not understand the words so well. “But today,” . . . the old man leaned forward expectantly, “today, they were all coming.”

“How Mama would have loved it,” he thought, “all the children with their little ones, and they could talk of old times.” No he must remember not to do that, they didn’t . . . how had Hans said that, oh yes, “they didn’t live in the past, but in the future.” He chuckled sympathetically. “When he was young he didn’t want to hear of lives already spent . . . how he had hated hearing of the good old days, but yet when a man got old his memories were a com­fort to him like a warm blanket in the cold weather. They helped him forget that his strength was seeping from him and that his future held only bleak cheerless tomorrows leading to nowhere. He shook himself resolutely. He must not feel sorry; it was only right that he who had already lived, already served his purpose, be cast aside, “cast aside!” he snorted. He was very hap­py here in the ‘home,’ where the children could come and visit him. The children yes . . . and the grandchildren, why even old Mr. Gregior had nothing to compare to his handsome grandchildren, and if they were noisy and tired him with their in­sistent demands it was only because he was so old.

“Mr. Gregior,” he thought scornfully, “always talking about his children. What were they? Poor common laborers? His Hans was to be a lawyer and Billie was buying a new house in the spring. Mr. Gregior indeed, a common old Italian pizza maker! Ha! That man had the nerve to say his children didn’t care … of course they cared but, ya, he knew how it was, life is so busy.”

The clock on the mantle ticked the af­ternoon away in loud ominous ticks. The old man sat in contemplative silence, oc­casionally dozing, but awaking with a hope­ful start at the sound of a footfall outside the corridor, only to fall back in disappoint­ment when the unintentionally cruel foot­steps walked on by.

The old man paused from his rocking and looked at the clock; the hands read 5 o’clock, long past visiting hours. He sighed, his shoulders became a little more stooped, his eyes more lonely, his face wearier. Then he brightened. He had misunderstood of course, they were coming next week. He was getting old he scolded himself; of course they had meant next week! How proudly he would walk over to Mr. Gregior’s room; he would smile and say, “Mr. Gregior these are my sons!” “Crazy old Italian saying his children didn’t care. Why of course they cared, only it took time to get ahead.” He shook his head condescend­ingly, “Crazy old Italian peasant, Ha!”