We ran across an old man in a busy pub. With unsteady hands, he took his pint from one corner of the bar to the next but each seat was covered by a backside. Our bag from the park with our Kings blanket hadn’t yet settled on the hook beneath the two-top table just off the bar, and with a couple of connected eyes we willed the elderly man towards our table. Truthfully, we wanted something by the window anyhow.
“You’ve found a spot now,” I said. It took him a while to make his way over. Just below a generous amount of grey nose hair, his mouth seemed to stay open even after his smile gave way.
We shared a table with a couple gents and dug into our Anchor Steam and cider. Before long we had two empty chairs across from our half-filled pints, and who else to show up? The old man, of course, with his stayed smile and now in an even more crowded pub.
“I’ll buy you a pint and one for your missus if she will drink it.” No chance to answer was provided, he twisted on his strong leg and walked right up to the bar and bought me and my missus a pint.
That, though, I’m afraid is not the punch-line or moral to the story. A fair gesture does not always result in pints or ice cream. I will spare you the details, at least in this post, but rest assured that each sip of the bitter lager was accompanied by a great deal of sadness.
The man was sick with Alzheimer’s and it was an incredibly humbling encounter. “You’re a lucky man, you better hold on to that one” he told me. He bought us another round, before we even had a chance to take a sip of the beer he had just bought us. We revisited each aspect of our conversation, and our hearts ached with awareness. He walked out of the bar with a full beer on our table; returned a few minutes later and insisted on buying us a pint, and one for my missus if she would drink it. I followed him to the bar to make sure he didn’t buy us another pint. He told me I was a lucky man and if any one gave me trouble to come find him because he would help us out. I couldn’t imagine anything he did in his life to deserve such misfortunate. And though it was sad, the bar staff told us that they would (and have for a long time) take care of Harry, we left with a great amount of perspective: we may not necessarily recognize our dawn or dusk, but we can rest-assured that each will pass.