The Old Man Who Cared

I heard a touching story today.

An elderly gentleman was leaving a doctor’s appointment.  On his way out of the office building, he saw a woman sitting outside on the steps.

He wouldn’t have given this a thought, except he noticed that the woman’s shoulders and head slumped down low into her body.  She looked dejected.  He wasn’t sure if she was physically hurt, or dangerously upset.  Something about the sight of her seemed alarming.

The old man with the wobbly gait and arthritic hands held onto the railing as he slowly made his way down the stairs, gingerly navigating one concrete step at a time.  His legs carried pain that couldn’t be treated.

He noticed the woman’s face, and described it as “tortured.”

There was no denying the woman looked uncomfortably sad.

The old man did not know what to do.  He felt bad for the woman, and wasn’t sure if she was okay.  All of this began to make him worry.

He wondered whether the woman was safe enough to speak to, since one never knows in cases like these. You can’t just approach strangers that you know nothing about, he thought to himself; you don’t know what they will do.

Still, the man sensed the woman needed assistance.  Though he didn’t want to bother her, he imagined he ought to try to do something.

“How’ you doing?” the old man asked, the words spilling quietly from him.

The woman, who appeared disheveled, with hair unkempt, looked to be about 45 years of age.  Much younger than the man.  Yet notably careworn.

The woman, looking tearful, turned reluctantly toward the man.

“You are going to be okay,” the old man reassured her.  Then, with an urgency:

“You are the best there is!”

The woman remained silent.

The old man could see that the woman was utterly dispirited.  He was just hoping to help in some small way, uncertain as to how.  Her crisis was unclear, but he felt badly for her unknown suffering.

“You are the best person you know,” the man continued.

The woman slowly lifted her head into the sunshine.

“Don’t ever doubt yourself,” the old man added affirmatively, “There is no one better than you.  You know that.  No one is better than you.”

“Thank you for your words,” the younger woman said, “I appreciate them.”

The man nodded his head and started at last to move on.

With hesitation and a bit more concern he added, “Do you have a ride?”  He didn’t feel she should just be left alone in the state she was in.

“Yes,” the woman said, “A cab is on the way to get me.”

“Good,” the man said, turning to go, taking another step away.

Yet again, something made him pause, perhaps it was her sadness, the thought of where she might have been or where she might be going.  Would she be safe?

“Do you have kids,” the old man asked, not meaning to pry.

“Yes,” the woman said quietly, “I have three.  But, one committed suicide,” she added.

“Ohh, that’s hard,” the man said, “really tough.”

The man then opened up to the woman with the very first thing that occurred to him.

He knew it might not be the best thing to say, but if he could, he wanted to make her feel less alone, hopefully less despondent.

“I had a similar situation,” the man confided.  “My own son became seriously ill.  Eventually he died too. It was very hard.”

“Both situations,” the man continued, “yours and mine–they’re so terrible.”

“We can’t give up.  We just can’t, even though it hurts so much,” the man concluded.

The woman agreed, and now lent her sympathy to the man as he shared with her a little more about his son.

“I am so sorry to hear about your son, Sir.  I’m just so sorry,” the woman offered.

“Well, you just remember what I said,” the old man said.

Then, as he turned to go the final time, he said:

“You are valuable.”  “Your other two kids need you.”  And then he repeated, “You have as much right to be here as anyone else.  No one is better than you.”  “Don’t forget I said that.”

“Yes,” the woman said, still looking sad, still disheveled.  She did seem perceptibly a wee bit stronger, her head and shoulders a bit less slumped, perhaps breathing a little deeper.

“Take care of yourself,” the old man said as he walked away, hoping he had made some difference, that he had been of some small help to this sad, broken woman he knew so little about.

“Sometimes,” the old man–who was actually the one telling the story–said to me, “The smallest fact is everything you need to know.  That’s when a small fact can become the major fact.”

“That’s a good story,” I said to the man telling it to me:  “I love you, Dad.”


This is Day 11 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue


© debra valentino, all rights reserved,

4 thoughts on “The Old Man Who Cared

  1. You have a wonderful caring dad, from what he did & said in this story! I am glad you have him for your dad! I know you love him! Thanks for telling us about this special man, who is your dad! It’s always good to hear, when others show they care; even when they don’t personally know this person!

    • Thank you. He told the story better than I could. His words to the young woman were better than I could recall. My father has a very big heart, and he has had his share of heart aches, too.

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