His buffalo plaid flannel shirt was neatly tucked into his Sears Work ‘N’ Wear Kahkis. His wife had pressed his pants with a knife-sharp edge.
He’s of the generation where jeans are for work. In fact, he doesn’t even call them jeans, he calls them dungarees. He doesn’t often wear them in public, but today is a work day.
His ball cap sat high on his head. He doesn’t wear the new low-profile cap that the younger guys wear. He wears a proper high-crowned baseball cap as a tool to shade his eyes, not as a fashion statement.
He was lugging a gas can. The gas is for the lawn mower that he’s getting ready to fire up for the start of the mowing season.
He was shuffling across the alley, having made it safely through the busy intersection. (Picture Tim Conway’s shuffle when he was pretending to be an old man.)
His generation thinks Earth Day is for sissies. Trees are for cutting. Grass is for mowing. Garbage cans are for tin cans and newspapers. “Who has time to save the Earth when I’ve got to mow the lawn and wash the car.”
I imagine the drivers in the vehicles stopped at the intersection were marveling at how slow the man walked. ” For God’s sake, man, drive your car to get the gas next time. Get the job done. It doesn’t need to take all day.”
There was the faintest shade of light green above his head where the trees were just leafing out. The grass hasn’t even had a chance to get long. The sun and moisture are being sent to broaden the leaf stalks. There’s not been enough time to send energy to creating length.
Still, by the time he gets back to his yard, it’ll be long enough.
I was one of the drivers stopped at the intersection. I was in the middle of a mad dash of getting groceries, stopping at Target, and crossing things off the to-do list while Jen and Will were in their one-hour art class.
Watching him shuffle forced me to take a breath. He was the embodiment of “Take time to smell the roses.” I worried about how heavy the gas can was getting. It had to be getting heavier with each shuffle.
When he got to the other side of the alley, he stopped. I assumed he would set the can down to take a breather.
As I waited for the light to change, I wondered, “Well why didn’t you drive? It’s too far to lug that can when you’re as old as you are. Make your life easier, dammit.”
Just as the light changed, I saw him stoop over to pick up an empty water bottle some teenager had mindlessly tossed onto the grass. He adjusted his grip on the gas can, tucked the bottle under his arm and continued his shuffle.