Tuesday, October 18, 2011

cherish every line

I see them every day,
       take their orders,
   hold my hand out for their money,
           try to remember to smile and can you speak up, deah?

Many of them wear hats
          baseball caps,
               messenger caps,
            various other types.
    They always take them off before they sit at their tables.

I always want to cry,
     watching their careful counts of the coins,
    holding my steady hand under their shaking ones as they drop the coins in my palm,
         trying to deflect the crankiness with a flashing smile.

   They look at me
     (usually up—age tends to hunch)
        and most of them smile.
 Those smiles, they break my heart more than the shaking hands,
       or the grumpiness.

When the old men smile,

    I can see who they used to be.

When the old men smile,

  I can see the young ladies they wooed,
     convinced to become the new missuses,
       for whom they bought diamonds and groceries,
                          and built houses;
   who became the mothers of vibrant families;
           who were faithful wives through peace times and war,
                         through absence and presence;
    girls who became women
             because they were loved by the right kind of men.

When the old men smile,

      I can see the families they fathered,
              the laughing children,
          the teenage-years' tension,
                 the peace of university and afterward,
            the secret tears at giving away their little girls,
                     the aching pride at seeing their sons become men,
        the delight of grandbabies.

When the old men smile,

     I can see their old strength,
         how they used to heave whole walls up onto their shoulders,
      carry toolboxes and milk crates and hay bales like they were nothing,
              rebuild car engines in astoundingly short time,
          orchestrate big plans and big people,
                   move and shake the entire world,
  rip out the old to make room for the new.

Now they are the old.

   I wonder if it bewilders them,

           this losing of strength, power, influence, energy.
      I wonder if they feel small,

               with their crumpled hands and rounded spines,
            if their physical stature contributes to their timidity, 
                 or if old-age hearing makes them unsure.
I wonder if they begin to wonder who they really are.
     I wonder if anyone ever told them
               you are amazing,
                       and not just because of what you do
                  but because of who you are.
   I wonder if they know just how valuable they are,
             not just to their families,
       but to the world,
            to God Himself.

When the old men smile,

         I can glimpse something worth living and dying for,
      something beautiful,
                    something precious,
                         something incredibly rare.

When the old men smile,

            I see past the wrinkles, the gray hair, the bifocals, the canes,
         and I just see good men . . .


  1. Oh...I wish they could all read this!


  2. I really like this. Well done :)