I met this old fella once. He was old in every sense of the word. He looked like one of those old miner 49er characters. He wasn’t very tall. His beard was long and dirty white and dirty grey. His hair was combed back with his hand and stayed where he put it because of what had not been washed out of his hair in no one knew how long. His face was colored by sun, wind, wrinkles and dirt. He was holed up in a small and not very pleasant motel room.
He had never owned a home.
He couldn’t narrow down his work experience to tell me what he was retired from. He worked, everywhere, doing everything. He had an income. But he wasn’t going to let me or anyone else tell him what to spend it on.
He didn’t have any family. He never married. I couldn’t get from him where extended family might actually be. It wasn’t that he didn’t know. It was that he didn’t want me to know.
He had no intentions of staying where he was because he never stayed anywhere.
I found myself standing in this dirty little room looking at this not well kept man, listening to him….and starting to feel more than a little jealous.
His life, though unconventional in the eyes of the world, was lived. He never stayed anywhere because he was always going somewhere. He didn’t commit his money to savings and purchasing a home for security because he was busy living and making do in a world that bored him if he stayed sedentary in security and convention. He liked spending his money on what he liked spending his money on. I couldn’t be sure but I bet in all of his years he spent more nights under the canopy of stars than the brick and mortar of shelter. I understood that his security was found in his freedom to roam.
The world I lived in felt, demanded, that he live in a world that they felt befitting an old man.
I have to admit, when I first stepped foot inside his room I couldn’t wait to step back out. But by the time I left I was envisioning all that he had seen.
And though I went there to see if I could help him, I didn’t.
But I’d say he helped me.
That’s been many a year ago.
He was old enough then, to suspect now, he may not be alive.
I hope his last days were spent like all of his days. Existing in discovering something he hadn’t yet known.
Every once in awhile I think of him. I imagine him traveling this world content with having everything he needed. And wherever he is that he is under the stars, or traveling among them.