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?