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40 Years Ago

Willard approached the front door of the residence of his older sister.  He rang the doorbell, stepped into the house, and loudly announced his presence.  “It’s Will.”

His sister stepped into the room and exclaimed, “Will!  I haven’t seen you for months!  What in the world have you been up to?”

“Oh, nothing in particular.  I was just in the neighborhood and decided to stop in for a few minutes.”

“You must have been up to something lately.  Look at you!” she said with a questioning look.

“What do you mean?  I must have worn these same clothes fifty times.”

“Not your clothes.  It’s you.  You have color in your face.  You were so pale, and I think you’ve finally put on a few pounds.  Have you finally found a better job?”

Willard quietly responded, “Nope.  Working at the same job, living at the same place.”

“Are you on some type of medication?”

“Nope.”

“Come on Will, you’re not telling all.  You can’t have a gleam in your eyes and color in your cheeks unless something came along and turned you around.  Mom used to say that you were quietly desperate.”

“Quietly desperate,” he repeated.  “I never heard her say that, but I suppose that would be accurate.”

“Dad and I have both been worried about you for some time.  He said you call occasionally, but you really should stop by to see him so he can see you’re doing well.”

“I’ll stop by this weekend.”

His sister paused for a moment. “Well, are you going to tell me or do I have to drag it out of you?”

Willard looked away, trying to think of a way to describe something that may be difficult to get across.  “Well, I have met someone that…”

“I knew it!  You’ve met someone.  Do I know her?”

“No, no.  Not like that.  I met someone several months ago that changed my direction.  Better stated, he worked with me on seeing the world differently.”

“You mean, like a psychologist or a guru?”

“No, he’s just a regular guy.  I was sitting on a park bench, eating my lunch as usual, when this old guy, smoking a strong smelling green cigar, came walking down the path.  He stopped as he was walking past the bench and looked at me for a few seconds.  It was kind of creepy.  Not frightening, but strange.  It was if he could see right into me.  Then he turned away, as if he was aware that his look was discomforting.  He stood there smoking that smelly cigar for minute, then sat on the bench looking disinterested.”

“I’d have gotten up and left if that happened to me,” his sister sharply answered.

“I wasn’t afraid at all.  It was just eerie.  I said something to him, you know, making small talk.  He had an unusual angle on things that sparked my interest and the conversation got very serious.  In very short order, I realized that this man had information and views that I wanted to have.  I over-stayed my lunch break, and he agreed to meet me at the cafe a couple of days later so we could finish the conversation.  I’ve spoken with him several times over a period of months.  We sometimes talk at the cafe, sometimes at the park.”

“I don’t mean this in a bad way, but do you think he goes to the park, trolling for someone to talk to?”

He’s not a lonely guy, if that’s what you mean.  Apparently other people like to talk to him.  He resists giving out his phone number because some people call him at odd hours looking for solutions to their problems.  He says people need to be on their own between talks to figure things out on their own.  Beside that, he says he doesn’t work on problem solving.”

“Well, for goodness sake,” she sharply answered, “what good is his advice if it doesn’t help people solve their problems?”

“He doesn’t give advice either.”

With a puzzled look, she said, “I don’t get it.”

“It’s a long story Sis; it’ll have to be for another conversation.”

“Why do you think he picked you out of the crowd?”

“He said I picked him out.”

She hesitated for a moment.  “I don’t get it.”

“I’m not sure I get it either, but he said I will.  I’ll have to take him at his word on that because I haven’t been able to fault him on anything else.”

Will’s sister was skeptical.  “I’m not so sure I trust old guys that walk in the park.”

“I’m not sure, but I think he goes for walks in the park out of consideration for his wife.  He said she doesn’t like the smell of his stinking green cigars.”

“Will, I’m going to be late to pick up the kids if I don’t get out of here.  You take care. There are a lot of weird people out there.”

“Indeed there are, Sis, indeed there are.”

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