The Ocean Park
He was just a blob on their radar screen of significance, smiling broadly somewhere between their crying children and yapping dogs.
The elderly gent seemed to enjoy the slight wobble of the park bench as he lowered his aging body on to the grated wooden slats. This was his daily personal window to the world. Rain or shine, good days or bad always offered him a quiet view.
Every folded wrinkle in his corrugated skin was a road map; a turn in the road that held a long flow of tribulation and sadness but a faint sparkle in his demeanor belied any regrets.
His dated garments were of no consequence but his face read the history of his life, weathered to an extreme. But his attentive curious eyes belied his age with a gleam when an occasional bevy of beauties jiggled freely in his presence
Odd as it was, the regulars viewed his constant presence as no more than the algae covered fountain. His humanity simply disappeared.
He never knew their names but recognized every smile or dismissed glance of the parade of passing faces. This park was his domain. He knew every tree, neglected asphalt path and most every passing or perching bird on sight. It was his home that he graciously welcomed the rest of God’s creatures to share.
The seasonal feeding and weeding of his space was noted that it was being well tended but in his heart, he had a much larger garden of faces to tend.
It was the first day of spring and the dark haired lady with the large smiling eyes passed by rolling her new carriage of joy. He remembered her swollen belly from early last summer and his continuous daily nod wished her well.
The parades of dog walkers were not far behind with straining leashes. Animals were just like people he thought. Some docile, fearful and whiny, others with noisy contentious barks and a few like him, cautious but enjoying the day.
He shifted his weight precariously to take the edge off the pain in his right hip. A metallic failing he mused. The insurance company informed him that he was just too old for another transplant. Medicine would work just as well they said. He simply accepted the fact of economics and swallowed his pride and daily dose of a non-descript medication. He understood that everything had a price and his diminishing value was no more important than the weeds they regularly killed.
He arrived early so he would not miss the morning gaggle of children on the way to school, nodding and prodding each other with giggles that made his heart soar. The older groups lagged far back in the parade with the reality of life’s demands and expectations.
Early afternoon launched the lunching office workers on the other benches. He would read the concern or joy in their faces. He gives them nicknames, such as blue eyes, baggy pants, or lost and alone…..
Who’s getting a promotion, or who was happy just to hang on and who’s getting the boot but the ones he loved were the young eager faces. Their eyes and body posturing let the world know that they were all viable pretenders to some future throne. He knew that most would soon sing the same old phrase from a movie that rolled through his archaic brain, “But I coulda been a champ!!!”
The evening shade welcomed the lovers. Their bodies curled easily into a oneness and their long romantic gazes were oblivious to his curious presence.
Over the many years, he adopted them as his extended family and wished them average. Sometimes in the greater context of life, average can win!!!! We all struggle; just get to the middle before we let go of our own personal safety net.……
Mid-day and quiet traffic shuffles outside the park and the merging hormones of lover’s arrive to quarrel in his space. His curious ears pick up all of the mistakes in their conversation.
He judgmentally surmises their stories. …..” Didn’t I see that episode on TV for the millionth time,” he quietly mumbles… and wonders if God did reruns on purpose.
Time to reminisce…. weigh his thoughts and misgivings as he munches into the sandwich he packed.
The late afternoon sun brings a quiet solitude. A welcome relief to reminisce and delight in all of the life he had just absorbed. Life is just a journey of small steps and missteps he thought. The grade point he awarded to himself was ‘average’. After all, maybe average is what we’re intended to be. Movers and shakers are relatively few but they do pay dearly with an extra pound of flesh that shortens their existence and losers do not lose, they simply choose to follow a lesser God.
Metrics control our lives he thought……. GPA in school….. Pay raises on the job. ……. A wife stays with you because of security……. Congratulations!!!! ….You’re average!!!!…
Is that all bad???? …….. But in the backwater of every mind is the latent dream that still whispers; “I coulda been a champ” but we all simply sink into the warmth of ‘average’….
Upon his punctual arrival, the next morning, his bench was gone as he watched the workmen load it onto the city truck. His wild waves with his threatening cane got their attention, and he sternly points to the ground where the footprints of his bench once stood….. The answer came quickly. “Hey Mista, it’s gotta be recycled. Old stuff gets dangerous, don’t ya know. Besides we got orders from the big guy!”
His gray eyes glared at the audacity of the man’s tone but he obeyed the small voice of authority. He realized that some Dark Knight had captured his throne.
There was so much truth and meaning in those simple words; ‘Old stuff gets dangerous ‘he repeated to himself and smiled. He too was getting dangerous and a detriment to society. He chuckled as he mulled; “orders from the big guy”. His gray eyes drooped as he realized his own ultimate truth. His plate of life was empty and there was nothing more to savor.
There is a reason and a season for every one of us to accept that their parade must end. His taste for life had lost its sweetness……..It was time!
Life never gives much more than it gets. In the scheme of things, his offerings were simple.
When purpose and duty no longer call, neither does life. He felt his circadian rhythm approaching midnight.
With the help of his well-worn gnarled cane, he pulled his frail body up into the subtle stature of his youth and acknowledged the workers with a perfect military salute from his service days, as he shuffled down to the water’s edge. They weren’t wrong he thought; it’s time to go home….Like every lone rider, he simply wanted to quietly ride off into the sunset but he knew it was the messy residue that caused so much consternation and commotion and that was not the legacy he wished to leave behind. The answer sparkled before him.
He hesitated for a brief moment to allow his mind to reminisce one last time with the last ultimate question in a symphony of life as he reveled in the giggles’ of passionate children, the beauty of a woman’s body recreating life and the passion of dealing with one’s own self-worth. The sweetness of the cold dark night sunk slowly into his inner sanctum as he shed all negative emotions. To sink deeper and deeper into one’s self is a narcissistic delight of the first magnitude as he absorbed the bliss of darkness with a chorus of crickets rubbing their hind legs in concert to the full moon. He slowly shuffled down the cobblestone boat ramp and into the water as the lapping ocean waves welcomed his frail body back to the eternal home of all God’s creatures.
Bio Edward Dean is a former C.E.O. and marketing manager. Ed’s sideline avocation has been to write motivational and marketing speeches for former associates. He has written four novels. “The Wine Thief” was voted the best fiction novel of Mich. in 2009. His latest novel of fiction is “Chakana, The Southern Cross”.