I Can See the Old Man
By James A. Bassett
He shuffles as he moves across the yard on legs too weak to lift his feet for clear decisive steps. His full head of hair is snow white as are his eyebrows. His face is deeply lined from the experiences of a lifetime of hard work in all kinds of weather. Sorrow, sadness, anger and the elements have sculpted his face and etched the lines as if in granite. He is, however, much more deeply marked than I can see in the lines of his face. His shoulders slump and there is a lack of energy in all his movements. His stubborn pride, unforgiving nature, and unseen barriers to protect him from people he loves have left him mostly alone.
He has his little dog, Spunky, who never argues with him and loves him no matter what his mood. She goes every place he will let her go. Her place in the pick-up is lying with her back feet on his right shoulder, front feet on his left shoulder, and body curled around his neck so she can see what goes by. He teases her to make her bark at unseen enemies and knows she would defend him against the world. Theirs is true love because neither makes demands on the other. Yet, each knows that the other is his champion in all causes. Because of this shared love, it is wonderful that I can see the old man with Spunky.
I can see the old man when he was a child. A gentle child until his father, in fits of jealous rage, beats the child to make him tell the truth. It is not the truth the child knows, but the truth the father wants to hear. He says what the father wants to hear to protect himself. The lies he has to tell are against his mother. What else is the child to do? He and his sister are taken far from their mother. They are subjected to abuse and threats with a gun to force them to sign affidavits against their mother. Afterward, the father leaves them with his sister. They are deserted. The child is learning. He knows he can't trust his father. This is accentuated as the spinster aunt tries to force him into a pattern he can't or won't fit. She calls his father who comes to beat the boy for disobedience again. This teaches him not to trust his father's family. After a year, he and his sister are returned to their mother who loves them and who can be trusted.
I can see the old man as a teenager. Times are hard in the mid 1930's and he drops out of school. He lies about his age at fourteen to get into the government sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps where you have to be eighteen. Here, an old man befriends him and teaches him to play checkers. At first, the teenager loses every game and the old man is friendly. He learns from each defeat and his game improves. When he has learned and consistently wins, the old man won’t have anything to do with him. He has learned not to expect anything from people outside the family. When he is fifteen, a man from his home town offers him a job. He is able to go home and be with his mother and siblings again. Back where he can trust people, he takes the job and works from 6 pm to 6 am, seven days a week for a dollar a day. The money is good and he buys a cow. He and his brother start a route delivering fresh milk. He buys a second cow and expands the business. He buys a car, has a charge account at the general store, and has money in the bank. He is doing very well and feels good.
Shortly after his sixteenth birthday, he comes in from work and goes into the house to get breakfast. There is no breakfast. On the table is a note from his mother telling him that she has sold his cows, taken the money from his bank account, charged clothes for his brother and two sisters to his account at the store and has taken his car to go and stay with her family until the depression is over. Now he knows. Now he understands. There is no sanctuary and there is no one you can trust. Never let anyone get close to you. Family will always hurt you. Always!!! I can see the old man who was a gentle child, but now he is an angry teenager. There is no place in his world for gentleness and open expression of love.
At eighteen he is married; at nineteen he is the father of one; at twenty he is the father of two. His wife loves him and has never done anything to hurt him, but he cheats on her, is abusive, and even asked her to abort the second child. She refused and the result of her defiance is a son he doesn't want. He is more abusive and will have nothing to do with his son, so she leaves him and lives with her mother for several months. She remains faithful to him and he, except for the time she lived with her mother, sees to it that she and their four children always have a place to live, food to eat, and clothes to wear. He loves them, but he won’t let them get close. He teaches them not to trust him; he teaches them to hide their feelings; he teaches them anger and hatred; he teaches them what he was taught and he isolates himself from them. His children learn to take what he has to offer: money and material things. They fear him, hate him, and hope he stays gone a long time when he leaves to work in other countries. He has left them his legacy of anger. He simply doesn’t know how to love or trust his own children or his devoted wife.
Now the old man suffers with pain in his chest and back. The pain he feels comes from not being able to love and from carrying the load of guilt and anger inherited from his parents. He loves his wife, but he pushes her away when she tries to hug him. He loves his children, yet he has never offered them anything but food, shelter, clothing and criticism. He can't say, "I love you." He can’t say "Good job," "Well done," or "Congratulations" to his own children. He brags about their accomplishments to others, but he can't face them and say it. He knows what happens when you open yourself up and give love and kindness to family members. In return, he receives the effect of their anger. They leave him alone. In the past, they came to him for money and material things, but never for love. Now they don’t need his money and they leave him alone. To him it just proves how right he is in never trusting anyone in the family.
His wife, always duty bound to him, lives in his house and tends to his needs. She loves him but she snaps at him so he goes out to his barn with his little dog Spunky. His wife doesn't understand why, even after fifty years of marriage, he won't let her get close. She knows he loves her and she knows of the hurts of his childhood, but she doesn’t understand. She challenges his right to be himself and to protect himself. He knows that if he let his guard down she would hurt him, too. I can see the old man sitting alone in his barn. No one attacks him here; no one challenges his right to be who he is and no one comes around anymore.
I can see the old man with only his little dog, Spunky, keeping him company. She loves him unequivocally. She makes no rules, tells no lies, doesn't snap at him, doesn’t steal from him, and doesn't run away from him. He holds her, strokes her, teases her and returns her love. She has been his true friend for several years, his only true friend. He is sick and old and he will die before much more time has passed. She will grieve for him for a long time. She may even die from the grief, but at least the old man has known love. To love is to allow, and this pair very simply allow each other to be. No strings. It doesn’t make any difference to her how he treats his wife and kids or how they treat him. And it doesn't make any difference to him that she tracks sand into the house or brings fleas in with her. Outside circumstances have no effect on the bond between these two. This is love as it should be: no rules, no strings, no limits. It just is. Now I can see the old man sitting alone in his barn with Spunky lying in his lap and both are content not to be bothered by the world. The old man feels the pain in his chest because he never learned to forgive. The weight of rejection by those he loved makes his shoulders slump and causes great pain in his back and legs. But Spunky loves him.
I can see the old man sitting alone in his barn. He is crying. Spunky died. Now his pain is worse. Nothing he can do will bring her back. Now he is alone. He has no one. He remembers how she laid beside him on the bed. She had heart worms and was too old to stand the treatment that would cure her, so he watched as she weakened until he had to pick her up so she could sleep in his lap. He remembers the night when she raised up, coughed once and died and he cries. He doesn't let anyone see him cry.
I can see the old man withering away as the ravages of disease and time attack his body. All the doctors can do is give him pills to ease the pain. His wife hangs on, caring for him and providing the things he needs to continue living. His speech is slurred, his vision is nearly gone, he has lost the use of his legs, he can’t use the left hand he depended on for most of his life and he can no longer depend on the one person he could trust all these years: himself. His oldest son comes to see him infrequently. He can talk to this son and treasures the visits. He can tell this son the same old tired stories that no one else wants to hear anymore. His daughters come and they care for his physical needs, but they don’t listen to his stories. His other son comes, but he is always busy fixing things around the farm. He doesn’t have time for his father just like his father had no time for his children when they were growing up. The old man is very lonely. I can see the old man at the end of his lifetime. He cries a lot and I cry for him. I feel his pain and I know he cries. I know his pain because, like him, my father rejected me. I know his pain because I have been there. The difference is that I forgave my father. The old man never did. He is the father that rejected me.
My father passed away. The funeral procession was very long because in his dealings with people outside his family, he was a good man. Several men my age said that he was more of a father to them than they had ever had. Strange, isn’t it, that this man who could not be father to his own children could be so fatherly to a bunch of strangers? But then, if they betrayed him, it was no big deal. He expected nothing from them just as he expected nothing from Spunky. Before he died, he made all these strangers promise to look out for his wife’s needs. He was still showing his love the only way he ever knew. It’s been ten years and those people are still making sure my mother has wood for the fireplace, the lawn is mowed, and she can get to town when she needs to go. They all talk about the old man as if he was a saint.
I can see the old man as he lay in the coffin. The used up body is in a three-piece suit and he looks very dignified. Mom cries and talks to him, but it’s only his body. He is finally at peace and has gone to the light where there is love. There he will never be rejected or thrown away.
Copyright 2015, by James A. Bassett. All Rights Reserved.
James A. Bassett is a native Texan who began trying to express himself through the written word during a mid-life crisis. Highly opinionated and, at times, pompous, he has written several articles on religion and general philosophy of human expression. In addition he is currently working on a dream interpretation book with a significantly different perspective of dream symbols.
Connecting With Your Spirit Guides With Justin Terry
Finding Your Life's Purpose With Eckhart Tolle
12 Steps For Finding a Spiritual Solution to Any Problem
An Introduction to the Akashic Records - Your Soul's Journey
Cosmic Ordering With Vision Boards With Lisa Newton
The Tao of Quantum Physics A Quantum Leap in Your Awakening
Uncover the Mysteries of Past Life Regression With Sarah Riley
Learn EFT Emotional Freedom Technique With Alan W. Kirwan
The Science of Effective Habit Change