Last week was very weird.  I really wasn’t myself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I found myself crying a lot.  You see I’m not a particularly over-emotional person, although I obviously cry at Comic Reliefy type programmes and kids being cute on TV – I’m not made of stone – but this was different.


There I was, having my usual latte and toast (extra butter and jam) in Costa, preparing myself for the day, when an old man walked in.  He looked like he was in his early 80’s, wearing jeans that were slightly too big, an over-sized tweed jacket and a slightly stained t-shirt.  He was carrying his bag-for-life and shuffled as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He didn’t talk to anyone .. he just ordered a cup of tea and toast and sat down.


And I burst into tears!


The man hadn’t even spoken to me but there I was, tears flowing down my face for no reason.  I wasn’t even sure what triggered the tears, but I think he just looked so sad and lonely that it broke my heart.  (I’m crying again as I recall seeing him for the first time!)  I had visions of him having just lost his wife, living on his own, his kids never visiting, with no-one ever to talk to when in fact he may well just be out on his own to get away from the Mrs for a few hours!


I knew/know nothing about him and yet I felt incredibly sorry for him.  I’m an empathetic person by nature, I feel other peoples’ pain a great deal but this man really got to me.


Of course, I asked my Facebook friends for their advice which ‘helpfully’ ranged from suggesting I go over to talk to him, to wondering whether his wife’s head was in the shopping bag to saying I should man the f*ck up.  The Facebook thread went horribly awry at that point and we began wondering whether it was all a ploy for me to give him mouth-to-mouth.  What can I say, I have some odd friends.


Seeing old people on their own makes me incredibly sad and I don’t know why.  Is it that I’m conscious that I’m very nearly ‘that’ sad, lonely old person with no-one that cares about me?  Does it just drive home the fact that being a single 43 year old woman means that I could potentially be the (mad) old lady everyone feels sorry for?  (Or maybe I really should just man the f*ck up.)


Funnily enough, I relayed the story to Dexter when we were pottering around Tescos and he asked to see a photo of him.  I asked Dexter if he was sure.  He laughed and said of course … saw the photo and promptly burst into tears too!  Bless him.   He’s definitely his mother’s son.


Either way, it was good to know that I’m not completely made of stone, nor am I alone in my complete breakdown looking at lonely old men.  That sounds wrong, but you know what I mean.  Although weirdly, it has to be said, that I rarely have the same reaction when I see old women on their own.


Did I talk to him?  Of course not, poor bloke was probably only trying to get some peace and quiet away from his grandkids, but I wish I could have found the courage because every day he doesn’t come into the café, I’ll always be wondering how he is and whether I should have made the effort to say hello.


Thankfully, he came into the cafe today as I wrote this so I know he’s OK.  I looked across at him and saw his sad eyes peering over the top of his shopping bag and it set me off again!  But at least he’s OK.


Do you have the same reaction?



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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.

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  1. I absolutely do. It is worse when I see them eat because then I start thinking that maybe they are starving and how everyone needs food for fuel. I feel anxious for them, worrying whether or not they are getting a decent meal during the day. Are they warm enough? Are they lonely? Sometimes I think about it when it is a woman but rarely too. I am actually filling up here thinking about it and it is upsetting me so I need to stop now. I sometimes think there is something wrong with me when I get upset at these thoughts so it is a relief to hear that someone else thinks a bit like me. Or maybe I am far worse than you and you are now thinking I’m a weirdo. Sorry. x

  2. I’m the same, empathic to the nth degree and I cry at everything… Basically I am the biggest wuss in the world.

    I do work with the elderly , as a care assistant (glamour all the way, yeah baby). When you see him again just say a simple “good morning” or afternoon (depending on the time). It will probably make his week having a lovely looking lady saying hello to him. Personally I chat away with everyone, especially the elderly. One, they are usually interesting and two they have manners! I like good manners, manners mean a lot to me.

    Plus as mrsnige said, he may well have a hot son 😉

    Take the plunge, be a nice to an elderly person, it may mean the difference between them not having had a conversation with someone for a week and feeling alone and upset, to making them feel that bit more valued as a person 🙂

  3. I know how you feel. I hate seeing people looking sad and lonely and I am married so it can’t because you think one day you will be like that, because that is not going to happen just because you are single at 43! x

    But say hi to him the next time you see him, as Raven said older people really appreciate it, it will make his day for sure and hopefully put your mind at rest too. x

  4. Oh my goodness yes I’m terrible. I cry with everybody and for anybody even though I promise myself I won’t i do. The worst for me is when I go to my daughters grave in the rows around her are two dear gentleman who are always tending their wives graves. They tell me how much they miss them. How part of them
    Is missing. One tells me how he cares for his wide for over 5 years and now he doesn’t know what do with himself. I know a cemetery is an emotional place but the pain on these pains faces break my heart. Maybe my face shows the same I’m not sure but still I go home in tears each visit when they are there.

    1. Oh Sara, that’s so awfully sad .. for all of you. It happens to me too when I visit Mum’s grave but no-one tends to talk to each other. I hope you get some comfort from each other, even thought it’s also incredibly sad 🙁 x

  5. I never used to cry at anything. Literally NOTHING. No tears at Dead Poet’s Society, nothing at Titanic. Then I got pregnant and had a baby, and now I cry at anything. Happy things, sad things. Old people. Babies and children. So I can totally relate to this. And I say talk to him, ask him if he’d like any company. What have you got to lose?

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