Old Man

Author’s Photo: My great-great grandparents, Adam and Annie Moore

Old man, look at my life

Twenty-four and there’s so much more.

Neil Young, Old Man


I miss people-watching.

Watching others as they go about their daily lives is far more riveting than anything you will ever get to see on Netflix. When I lived in the city, I could (and did) people-watch all the time. No one knows you in a city and no one ever looks back at you. Eye contact in a city is unheard of. People will go out of their way not to look back. It’s almost magical, how invisible you can become.

In the country, everyone makes eye contact, so people-watching would either be considered rude, weird or simply a precursor for them to say a friendly: “Hi there! Do I know you? Want to chat about the weather or maybe about my grandkids?”

I do love those friendly conversations in the country but I have nonetheless missed people-watching the way my husband misses the sun in the wintertime.

The other day, I was at a big store in a nearby town and because it was the last few days before Christmas, the place was packed with a lot of preoccupied folks who were far too busy searching for that perfect last-minute gift to even think about chatting with anyone about the weather. I had finished my shopping and had found a little corner to sit and wait for my husband to finish his own errands. It took me a few moments to even recognise the opportunity to people-watch: I have been carefully training that habit out of me since we moved back home. At some point, however, I felt that old magic as I became completely invisible; completely anonymous; in a crowd of busy, preoccupied people.

My eyes were soon drawn to an old man paying for his purchases just a few feet away. He was not buying presents. Instead, with some effort, he had just placed two big, heavy jugs of motor oil on the counter and he was carefully examining the receipt as he and the cashier discussed the price, which he had clearly not been expecting. I had swiftly made a few (perhaps incorrect) assumptions. One: he was not buying a present for his lady: perhaps she was no longer living? And two: he was clearly on a budget, as most retired seniors are. I understood that he intended to fix whatever needed fixing without the help of a mechanic, and I understood that for him, every penny counts.

I, too, am on a budget but I knew I would help him if he left those jugs of motor oil on the counter. I didn’t know how I was going to handle it gracefully though. In a rural area, a man who has nothing left still has his pride. How could I give him a hand without shaming him?

I quietly watched the internal battle play out on his aged face. It only took a few seconds, but I know it must have felt much longer to him. Finally, with a short, dignified nod, he indicated that he would be keeping his purchase, despite the price.

Just like that, he was on his way, carrying those heavy jugs and disappearing into the crowd. I watched his receding figure: despite his slightly stooping back, he was very tall and trim: I could see that he must once have been a very imposing man. His hips were doing that thing that seems to happen to all old people at some point: it’s as if all the bones are… letting go… spreading out…and trying to escape the skin that holds them together so they can be on their way to whatever realm awaits them next.

I notice older people a lot, these days. I know – without sadness or regret – that will be me in perhaps fifteen or twenty years. There is so much I do not miss about being younger. I do not miss the daily uncertainty. I do not miss figuring life out on a daily basis because well, when you first start out, you realise that you don’t seem to know anything.

But sometimes, life can be a struggle.

And sometimes, a person’s pride is all they have left.

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com



Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

26 thoughts on “Old Man”

    1. I know 😔 This hurt my heart.

      Our Christmas was cold – like so many, we lost power for a few days because of that massive storm system along the eastern part of the continent, but we have a wood stove in our garage so we kept safe and warm. I have been writing about it but not finished yet. Kids arriving later today so holiday is not quite over for us (🙂🙂🙂) How was your Christmas?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I started cooking at four a. m. and finished around three p. m. Had my sons, daughter in law, ex-wife and granddaughter. It was nice but I was glad when my granddaughter said she wanted to go… I was advocating for her… you know, like, “That three year old makes a lot of sense” and “Well, I guess you’ve got to go, eh?”

        That’s the problem with cooking a big meal… you’re too tired to enjoy the company…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dang, Charlie… now that’s a true act of love… I have never much liked cooking so I sincerely appreciate when anyone cooks so lovingly for me (and in abject gratitude, I always do the dishes 🤓). Glad your granddaughter knew when it was time to call it a day, though. Smart girl 🙂💕 My sister and I decided – many years ago – to tone down the Christmas meal to say, pizza, so we could relax a little, too. I don’t think anyone would mind if you switched it up one year…💕

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I think we as writers do more “people-watching” than most. I think it comes with the territory. It’s one of my favorite activities. I probably do more imaginary story-telling, but I’m drawn to older people too. So many people overlook or miss their struggles. I applaud you for noticing and trying to help. A powerful post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am the youngest participant in a Wednesday “mens'” discussion group. Our current title holder is Ray who watched the Zeros bomb Hickam Air Base from his backyard. Pride is not something they hide from. They draw strength from it, determination to see over the horizon, desire to push the finish line past what anyone has known. I think old is not a gift but a well earned prize.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a cruel twist of fate that when you finally reach the age of having figured things out, your body goes south. I think women take it in stride, for men it’s harder. Pride is the last thing to go.
    Lovely post.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I had a full hysterectomy 7 years ago and don’t even recognize my body anymore. I miss younger thinner me… but at 59 I’m happily married and not trying to impress anyone anymore either, so whatever.
        My husband, at 75, is having a harder time with the physical changes. Muscle loss and the inability to work all day like the 20 year old he thinks he still is depresses him. That being said, he is at this very moment lugging bundles of shingles up on our roof to repair storm damage…. like a 20 year old.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a powerful story to share. Pride is often stubborn and hard to give up, but it’s important to preserve it for others. It’s a kindness sometimes to not help.

    I really loved the lines ” At some point, however, I felt that old magic as I became completely invisible; completely anonymous; in a crowd of busy, preoccupied people.” It does feel like magic, doesn’t it? My teenage daughter goes to the mall a lot with her friends and I find a quiet place to sit with a book, but I do little reading. I watch almost like an anthropologist the social dynamics and groupings found in a suburban mall. It’s fascinating stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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