Not what I expected.
I donâ€™t tell this story that often, because I donâ€™t feel like itâ€™s entirely mine to tell. My grandmother passed away years ago, however, and Iâ€™m sure she wouldnâ€™t mind me sharing the story with you.
When I was maybe ten, twelve years old tops, my mother and grandmother and I took a trip together to New Jersey to visit my great-aunt. The whole family used to go every year, but eventually my brother moved out of the house and my father started leaving it to us as a â€śgirlsâ€™ weekendâ€ť trip. Being creatures of habit, we would always stop around the same place. My memory for geography isnâ€™t strong, but it was somewhere in Delaware. I think.
We would stop and get fast food even though the trip wasnâ€™t that long. Grandma would always laugh about how often she had to stop on car trips, and it wouldnâ€™t be many years before Mom would be singing the same tune. This particular trip was just like any other. Same drive, same rest stop in about the same place.
Except on this particular day as we neared the end of our meal, an elderly gentleman came up to our table. Very quietly and politely, he introduced himself to the table, then addressed my grandmother directly. Iâ€™ll not do a disservice to his memory by trying to re-imagine dialogue. Briefly, he told my grandmother that she had caught his eye, and that he thought she was lovely, and if it was not too forward of him he would like to give her this poem he had just written for her. He handed over a napkin with a few lines scrawled on it, smiled, and bid us all a good day.
Iâ€™m not sure I remember how my grandmother or mother reacted. Everyone seemed pleased and happy, possibly amused. I canâ€™t remember the poem at all. I canâ€™t remember much detail except that this happened. And it showed me something, something Iâ€™m sure I didnâ€™t appreciate for years to come. I wonder some days if I appreciate it enough now.
There is no fear in speaking kindness. The memory of good words and kind gestures can last a lifetime. And there is no one right way for romance to come into the world.
That man, advanced in age nearly 30 years ago when this happened, is surely no longer living. But the spirit he spoke in that day, of kindness and affection and honesty, has stuck with me this long. I know it is something my grandmother remembered as long as her memory served her correctly. He said what he said, did what he did, wrote what he wrote because it was what he felt. He had no expectations. He had no agenda. It was just a moment he didnâ€™t want to let slip by. It was a little moment, a throwaway – that built years of memory.
It would serve me well to remember this, when I might otherwise hesitate. Thatâ€™s why I wanted to share it here. I also wanted to sort of thank this man, or his memory, publicly. If there were more out there like him, the world would be a more joy-filled, and joy-acknowledged, place.