I met him outside a barbecue joint in Lynn Haven, Florida. His hair was so white it glowed.
There was a tattoo on his forearm—a crude looking image of a bull. He used to be a rodeo clown long ago. It was a hobby, but turned into something that paid well.
“Not a bad job,” he said. “You DO have occasional bad days, but it’s big fun.”
I asked why he got out of the business.
“My wife got pregnant.”
Once, I met an elderly woman. On Saturdays, she bakes several poundcakes, layer cakes, sugar cookies, and banana puddings. Her adult daughters help. So do her granddaughters.
Until this stage of life, she never had time to teach baking. She was a single mother, fighting to keep her head above water.
“Want my girls to learn my kitchen tricks,” she said. “If I don’t teach them, all my mother’s recipes will disappear.”
Last year, her daughters and granddaughters were faced with a choice between summer softball, or cooking lessons with Granny.
They haven’t played softball since.
An elderly man from Crestview, Florida—he retired from driving semi trucks several years ago. He wore a large belt buckle and ostrich-skin boots.
“Driving was my life,” he said. “Retirement is killing me.”
He started driving after his wife left him, forty years ago. Since then, he’s seen America. Every part of it.
“Took my grandson on a trip once,” he said. “At first, he wasn’t happy to be away from home. But then I showed him the Grand Canyon.”
He handed me a photograph of his grandson, sitting behind the steering wheel of thirty-thousand horsepower.
“That boy’s everything to me,” the man said.
In an antique store, yesterday, I saw a man in a chair by the cash register. The window-unit AC was pointed at him.
The rest of his store was hot as Hell and half of Georgia.
“Lemme know if I can help you with anything,” he said, swatting gnats.
We talked. His wife died recently. He’s been alone. It’s been hard, but he’s tough as turkey neck, by God. He’s owned this store for years, he’s not about to quit.
He claims this place is what’s kept him alive.
“Trouble with old age,” he said, “You’re all alone. No kids, no wife. One day, I was like, ‘Shoot fire, I’m alone, I must be old.’”
He laughed at his own joke. Then, he rang me up and scribbled a receipt on pink carbon paper.
“Wish my kids lived closer,” he went on. “My house is always quiet. Take my advice. Don’t never get too busy to call your old man. We live for those phone calls.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my old man checked into the Beulah Land Motel years ago. So I bid him good day.
Then, I sat in my truck, wondering what color of hair my own father would’ve had, if he were still alive. White, maybe.
I guess what I’m trying to say is:
If you’re lucky enough to have parents left, call them.