There aren’t many people that touch my life these days. I don’t let them. Ironically, considering I’m a blogger, I’m actually quite a private person and it’s rare that I let people ‘in’ or even put myself out to make conversation with strangers. I realise that makes me sound horrible. I’m not. Promise. (Well, sometimes maybe.) I’m just one of those ‘keep your head down’ type people day to day. I go about my business, exchanging a few pleasantries here and there, but generally I’m so busy, I’m mentally ticking off everything I have to do in any given day from noon till night.
Sometimes though, I do take the time to talk. When I don’t have too much shit on my mind. When I’m calm. When I feel ‘free.’ The café I was lucky enough to write in before I took on a day job was a place where I felt calm. It’s where I wrote, I wasn’t judged, it was full of old people who were interested in what I did on my laptop. Interested in me. It felt good.
One such man I used to talk to a lot (I was there most days,) was 87 years old, although he was pretty spritely for his age. I didn’t know his name. His wife had died a long time ago and he lived with his middle-aged daughter who was deaf. I thought they were a couple at first – you know, when you look at someone and try and work out how they ‘fit.’
We first got talking when we were in the queue for coffee. There’s always a queue in here but most of us don’t mind. It gave some of us the opportunity to talk to people we might not usually talk to. He used to be in the army and had plenty of tales to tell about his life – all fascinating. Much more interesting than my life and yet he was fascinated by me and my life – life’s like that.
He was the type of man who’d say hello to most people in the café. There was a group of old people who came in at the same time every morning as me, who’d sit in the same place, had the same drink (just one – no food) and as this ex-army man would leave the café with his daughter, they’d all have a chat. Every day. And as he passed my table, he’d always ask how I was. He’d always call me Katie (bit annoying but I let it pass,) and he’d always ask what I was writing today or what was going on in the world.
People like him made my café a special place to be.
I found out yesterday from a friend that also used to talk to him and his daughter, that he died in January of gullet cancer.
Yes, he was old. Yes, “he’d had a good innings,” but his daughter is bereft. She says she doesn’t know what to do without him and is stressing about the housework. My friend offered to go and clean for her which quite frankly brought me to tears, (yesterday was a tough day!)
So this blog post is dedicated to the old man in the cafe. I’m sorry I didn’t know his name and I know none of you knew him – and I suppose I didn’t really know him. But he had a kind heart and I know that when it’s my time, I’d want someone to just spare the time to acknowledge that I existed.
He will be missed.