Old Friends and Wishes
Sighing dramatically, I push out my bottom lip and rake my fingers through my messy hair. As I wait my turn to get out of our beat up old minivan, I quickly scan the parking lot. I would be horrified if any of my friends saw me climbing out of this shabby, old pedo- van. That is what my friends call old white minivans. Yep, I am lucky enough to have parents who own one. I breathe out a sigh of relief. The coast is clear. The only human in sight is a sad looking old man, making his way toward the entrance.
We are here to spend “family time” together. Today's fun filled event is fishing. I hate fishing. I hate everything about fishing. I was a vegetarian for three years, for god's sake. Unfortunately, my parents do not deem me old enough to stay home entirely by myself. I am 14. Apparently, 16 is the magic number. My sister, she is 16, If she wanted to stay alone, she could. Heck, I could have even stayed with her. Regrettably, she likes fishing, and I am only 14. In this family that means you have no rights. No privacy either, I think, as I glare at my younger sister because she is standing too close to me.
The only saving grace to this entire fiasco, is I was allowed to bring the family dog. He is a Sheba Inu, and his name is Keelo. I grab his leash and take him for a quick walk around the park. I take a deep breath. The air smells sweet, with just a touch of fishiness. The breeze stirs some dried leaves in front of me, and I put my head back, to bask in the warmth of the sun. I finally start to relax. Boy, do I wish I could get this kind of alone time more often. How great would it be, to be left completely alone all the time? I sigh, knowing how futile this dream is. Between my two sisters, and my parents, who sometimes act like kids their selves, I had no hope. I walk back up to the fishing dock, where the rest of my family is, having fun, and joking around. I secure Keelo to the lead that we brought for him and sit down to observe, the circus in action.
As we sit on the dock fishing, the old man, from earlier walks up. He is in his late seventies, with old white velcro sneakers, slightly oversized jeans, and a blue and brown coat. He has an Irish accent. With each step, he takes toward us, Keelo, gets more and more excited. Suddenly he closes the gap between him and the stranger and jumps up on him. We are all startled because he has never done this before.
The man smiles, caresses our dog's blonde fur and asks “how old is he?”
Ronnie, struggling to get Keelo off the man thinks for a second and says, "I believe he is eight. He was a rescue dog, so we don't know for sure."
The old man stares vacantly at the water, after a brief pause he looks at my dad, and says, “I used to have a dog, I lost him about eight years ago, never got another one.”
He stands there for a few minutes, absently petting the dog, and looking out toward the water. He says nothing more to us. As suddenly as he appears, he leaves. We stare at him in awkward silence. My dad smiles and says “well Keelo that was weird," and the conversation is soon changed. I sit there in stunned silence because as the man walks away, I could not help but notice that both the old man and Keelo kept stealing glances at each other.
Suddenly, the wind picks up, and the sky darkens. My mom decides it is time to pack up and leave. I smile inwardly thinking to myself Yes, I survived one more family expedition. As we get closer to the van, I notice a white envelope tucked under our windshield wiper. My mother must see it at the same time because she jokingly punches my dad in the shoulder and says, “Oh my God, Ronnie, that better not be another parking ticket.”
He smiles sheepishly and reaches his hand out to grab it. As he pulls the plain white paper out of the envelope, I notice that it is handwritten. He looks at it with a confused expression on his face, and begins to read it out loud:
Dear beautiful family:
I feel driven to explain to you all, what an impact that you have had in my life. I told you about the dog that I lost but left out a few things. There is no way that you could have known about all the loss I have suffered in my life. I lost my wife last week. She
Suffered terribly with Cancer, and she finally lost the battle. We were married for 52 years. We raised a beautiful daughter together, but she was killed in a car accident on her 21st birthday. My wife was my heart and soul. She was the only thing I had left in the world, to hold on too. I have been wondering around, lost in a fog, praying that God would help me release this last little bit of will to live. I have spent the last week getting my affairs in order, so that I could say goodbye to this cruel world, and go and be with my wife. When I saw you all, you’re such a happy family; you seem to have ignited a spark inside my soul. When I looked into your dog’s loving eyes, I felt as if I was looking into the eyes of an old friend. It felt as if he was urging me to go on. It suddenly occurred to me that there is, in fact, a big part of me that wants to live. I feel as if my work here on earth is not quite finished after all. I plan on heading over to the dog pound, as soon as I leave here. I am going to pick out my very own best friend. I cannot thank you all enough for being kind enough to humor, a lonely old man.
My dad slowly folds the paper up, and looks at each of us, in silence. We all get back into the van without saying a word. The atmosphere has changed. It is no longer playful. We all become introspective. I don't know what my family is thinking. It seems that we have come to a silent agreement, not to talk about it. I for one, wipe the tears from my eyes and look at my big silly family. I take a hard look at each and every one of them. It occurs to me that I don't really want to be alone. It would be devastating to feel as if there was no one on earth left for you to love. I am suddenly filled with gratitude; what an amazing feeling.