The old man awakened to the muffled sound of not-so-far away explosions and regained enough of his senses to see the flashes of light slightly out of sync with the concussions. He glances at the large green LED lights on the clock aside his bed: 12:00.
“Happy New Year,” he said to no one, perhaps himself, or perhaps to the woman who shared the empty side of the bed not too long ago. She was there for 59 years, keeping him company; giving him comfort; just plain being there. “I so took that for granted,” the old man said as he tried but failed to swallow back the tears.
The small house was empty now, but for him. It wasn’t always that way. There was a time when he and his sidekick enjoyed, mostly, the company of five bundles of kinetic energy in various stages of youth. There was a time when a pair of dogs excitedly followed the Tasmanian devils of motion and laughter, barking and jumping just by picking up the vibes of the band of sisters and brothers.
The cell phone by his bed, next to the clock with the big green numbers buzzed every minute or so — four times to be exact. He knew what that was and thought, “There once would be five sets of buzzes,” he pondered, “but that came to a halt about 10 years ago. At least he and my beloved share the new year together now.”
The old man laid back knowing full well that sleep, for the time being, was out of the question. His mind had already become saturated with memories — good and bad, mostly good — and those memories must be welcomed and given the love and respect they deserve. None of that is conducive to sleep.
“I remember my dad telling me, in this very house, ‘Son enjoy every moment, savor every sensation, embrace every loved one — every day. They will all be gone in the blink of an eye,’” said the old man aloud to an empty house. He continued his solitary conversation. “I loved that man, but I thought he was just being melodramatic.”
The father’s quote brought the old man’s thoughts back a few years, remembering the words of the rock performers he used to, and still does, listen to — rockers, many of whom have themselves come and gone. He sang softly aloud, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger. I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was stronger.”
Welcoming in the new year was a far less pensive experience for the old man until but a few years ago, when suddenly he was the lone inhabitant of the bed.
Still, it wasn’t an unpleasant night ushering in 2022 for the old man. The memories that overran every lobe portion of his brain were warm, funny, touching, and oh so simple. “If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said without speaking the words. “Everything that has happened has made me what I am today. I don’t like the loneliness, but I do love that man I am.”
Sensing he was becoming a bit too philosophical for a midnight memory session, the old man reached over to his cell phone and read the four texts waiting in his mailbox. All four of them were warm wishes and humorous sentiments from his four surviving children — all of them eagerly waiting to see him at dinner this very day; and all of them expressing a wish that their mother and brother could be there with them.
“Wouldn’t change a thing,” the old man repeated aloud. The memory session was taking its toll and the old man was growing sleepy once again. Most of the shades of the past were slipping away, temporarily, allowing space for slumber to take over.
As he felt himself slipping back to sleep he thought, without saying it, “I wish my dad wasn’t so darn wise.” And with that, the old man fell asleep while in homes and at fireworks and parties and in restaurants, revelers continued to usher in the new year — things the old man and his sidekick did many times themselves in years past.
Happy New Year to all who take the time to read my column, and my wish for you this year is to remember to enjoy every moment, savor every sensation, embrace every loved one — every day.