I was restless the other day. I needed a change of scenery to help me adjust to the slower pace of life. I picked the only place to go in this small town: Tim Horton’s. Have you noticed they have a different culture than Starbucks? People go to be social, and in the middle of the afternoon (like it was for me) it was mostly seniors. I felt self-conscious as I opened my laptop; I may be the only person ever to have opened a laptop in this place. I should not have been surprised that an old man sat beside me and struck up a conversation. I smiled and responded and went back to my reading. He said something else, I half-reluctantly replied. The conversation ebbed and flowed like so many coffee conversations I’ve had before with the older crowd in Tim Horton’s.
Since my work wasn’t pressing, I decided to shift my attention to him. I was, after all, the one breaking the cultural norm by trying to ignore people. We chatted about cell phones, computers and the rapidly changing world around us. I discovered he lived alone in an apartment. His wife, in a nursing home for five years. She’s his second wife. The first died in 1992. The second has dementia. She doesn’t even recognize him anymore.
“It’s hard to visit her,” he confessed. I wasn’t sure how to respond how he invited me into his life. I didn’t even know his name.
“They don’t talk about this part of marriage when you do the vows, eh?” I said.
“No,” he shook his head, “they don’t. I don’t figure they’re doing much to try and fix Alzheimer’s these days.”
“Oh I think they are. It’s a lot of work, though,” I responded. ”Really? You think?” he was surprised and hopeful. “They’re doing music therapy with her now. It might be working.”
The subject shifted to her kids who live in BC and his kids who live in town. He shared about visiting Montreal and traveling the continent in their motorhome together. He finished his coffee, his cue to leave. Gathering his things and rising laboriously, he wished me a good life and said goodbye.
He came in looking for coffee and conversation, I for a change of scenery. It appears he got what he was looking for. I got a lot more.