A Conversation With My Elder


Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him,
and to let him know that you trust him.
- Booker T. Washington

I always find it odd that in this day and age people have no worries when talking to me, and when I say people, I mean complete strangers. I stand roughly at 6'1, 240lbs when I'm in public, so couple that with the fact that I'm an African American, I'm not the least bit welcoming in my eyes. But I may be wrong in that thinking because more times than none, older folks tend to stop and ask me questions or for help. One time this lady asked me to help load groceries into her car, another at Wal-Mart had a conversation about milk and the expiration dates and how she wouldn't need that much. I guess older folks can sense the gentleman in me and have no fear in asking me questions. I actually have no problem with that at all. From a young age I was always told to listen to my elders. Not just because it was the respectful thing to do, but they always have something to teach you, whether it be right or wrong. I've always had the good fortune to run into older folks who always wanted to teach me the right and wrongs of the world and I listened, majority of the time.

So it came as no surprise when an older gentleman started talking to me one day when I was eating lunch at the hospital outside, as I had to do some stuff regarding my own health. He asked me what I was there for and we went back and forth and traded our purposes and histories in the military. He asked me why I got out after such a short time and I told him it was because I felt that it was the best thing for me because I wanted to start a family, and being moved around all over the place, and away from home so often wasn't how I wanted to raise the children I wanted to have. He agreed and commended me on my decision and said that was one of his big regrets doing 20 years, was being away from home so much and not really seeing his kids grow up like he should have. He told me some tales of his kids while they were growing up, and I thoroughly enjoyed what he was telling me. He said now that he has grandkids, he feels lucky to be around to play with them and what not.

I asked him about his wife, pointing out that he didn't mention her much, and he complimented me on how well I was paying attention. But sadly she passed five years before after 44 years of marriage. I quickly apologized and he said it was quite alright. He said once you get to a certain point in life, death was all but guaranteed and you learned to accept it and not really be bothered with it when it comes. He said that he misses her everyday and that he knows one day that they will be reunited, but his duty was to let his children and grandchildren know how much he loves them while he's still here. That's the purpose of his life as the head of the family, is to make sure that the flow of love never stops and teach them the value of it. I commented on how that's my wish for my own family after seeing so many things with my own, he reassured me that a family is built by the man who wants to have one, and the day he decides to have one is the day that everyone will gravitate towards him and follow his lead.

He proceeded to ask me about my love life and if I was married, I gave a slight chuckle and replied with a simple no. He said he knows what that chuckle means, and said that there is a woman who I want to marry but things aren't right between us. I asked him how did he know that, and his reply was a funny one stating that "I didn't get to be this old with all these children and grandchildren without going through my own headaches". He explained how him and his wife actually dated for a little while and then broke up because she thought he was playing "fast and loose" with all the women in the neighborhood. He admitted that he was a young man who didn't really see the importance in settling down at the time. He said it wasn't til one day he sat back shortly after that he realized that life was more than what everyone around him wanted it to be for him. He said he made the conscience decision to go after is future wife again, but she wasn't having it. He said she drug him through the mud in the sense that she thought he was just trying to play her and get her like all the other women in the neighborhood. He said he literally had to get his life together in order to get her. He admitted it was hard breaking out of the mentality that he had for so long, but he knew what he wanted, and he wouldn't stop at it til he had her and everything he needed to take care of her.

He asked me to explain my situation that I was in, and after hearing it, he grinned and said to me:

"That's nothing. Even though generations change, times change, the world changes, the one thing that doesn't is love. God is love, his love will never change. When you talk about two people loving each other, like really loving each other, there's nothing that can keep them apart. Today's generation gets so easily discouraged by something that is hard that they give up. We get called the golden age of love because we literally had to fight for our love because of racism and the lynching's and what not. But at the end of the day, it's the same regardless of what you hear out of a woman's mouth. If that woman knows you'll give every sing bit of yourself to make sure she's happy for the rest of her life, then nothing can repay that kind of love she'll give to you. But you as a man have to be completely ready for that, you have to mean that with all your soul because barring things like physical or mental illness, that woman will be there long enough for you to prove you love her. You can say all the words out of your mouth that you want til you're blue in the face, but until you put down tangible evidence as to why she should come back & know you can care for her like you need to, she won't. I went through the same situation with my wife of 44 years. We almost didn't make it a couple of times, most times I as the man had to will us through it. There were times when she held down the fort, but for the most part you have to lead her to happiness, her support will be there to give you motivation. That plus God kept us together. Love will be the hardest thing you do in life because it's the one thing you can't live without. You love that woman, she knows, you'll do anything for that woman, she knows. But you have to get off your ass and show her how much you love her & that's where you're at, and that's a better position to be in than the one where she doesn't love you at all."

I looked at him and told him that was one of the best piece of advice that I was ever given. He just nodded his head and smile and said, "I know". He also pointed out that there isn't many people around anymore that can give solid advice like that anymore, and that there isn't too many young people my age that will actually listen and digest the information being given. For all that was being said he commended me on actually listening and sharing versus acting tough and lying. He also gave me another great piece of advice saying; "watch who you take advice from, I'd rather take it from someone who admit they failed versus a person who pretends to be ok". "Not having to have it all together is a scary thing, I know, it always is. But if you're busting your ass, trying to make that way, then she'll be there, she'll always be there, because she sees that you're trying to do good things for yourself. That goes for anyone, friends, family, strangers. If people see that you're trying to do better, they will gravitate towards you and try to help you get there".

A nurse comes over to get him for his pre surgery screening, he shook my hand and told me that everything will work itself out, as long as I keep trying, and I keep working hard towards it. Because God won't let me fail at something that I'm willing to work everyday of my life for. Plus as an African American male, there's that inherited trait of being able to pull off far greater things that I never imagined through the hard work I put in. He shook my hand, and was wheeled off back into the building. I sat there for a little while, thankful for the chance to hear reaffirming words from someone willing to teach me a couple of things.

It's always great to talk to my elders.

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