Had to run up to the Depot the other day. As I was searching for my need,
I noticed a man walking, shuffling really, just ahead of me. His jeans were
dirty and somewhat worn. His boots were cracked and the heels were worn
down, almost gone. He had on a sleeveless shirt and I could see that his arms
and hands were covered in what I guessed were jailhouse tattoos. He had a
ragged beard and I could smell him from ten feet away.
He was holding the hand of a little guy, maybe six or seven at the most.
The little man stopped to look at something shiny and the old man stood and
patiently waited. I looked at the little guy again and saw his face as he looked
up at the man with absolute trust, love beaming from his eyes. Then I heard
him say those magic words, “Grandpa" as he asked what the shiny thing was.
The old man explained to his grandson and waited until he was ready to move on.
The man felt me watching and turned his face full to mine. He eyes moved up
and then down and stopped when he saw the bulge of my pistol under my shirt.
He glanced up and nodded and I could read in his face that he knew my
background, just as I knew his. I nodded back and they walked on.
I stood there a minute thinking about how I had judged that man. My heart hurt
and my eyes blurred a little as I remembered a man named Herschel...
Herschel lived in an old dilapidated house down the road from Trudy Belle and
me at the farm. I saw him for the first time as I drove past and he was sitting on
the porch. I realized we had a new neighbor so I stopped to say hey.
He stood as I walked up. He was tall and thin with a demeanor that told me he
had done time. I shook his hand and we chatted a minute. I could tell he was
uncomfortable so I took my leave and drove on.
Some months later I was on a tractor working the front pasture and saw him
pull up. He shuffled over, head down and said, “Boss would it be ok if I brought
my grandson over to fish in your ponds?” I told him sure and he said, “You know
I did some time.” “I know,” I said. “It was over dope and it was hard time
because I acted the fool in the joint.” He looked up at me and said,
“You’re police, aren’t you?” “Used to be.”
He nodded and started talking. He told me his whole life story. I’d heard it so
many times before. His life had been so hard, so violent.
He brought his grandson by several times and I enjoyed watching them as they
fished. Then I noticed that they were not coming anymore. I wondered why,
figured I would drive by and see if all was well with Herschel. But being so busy,
I just never got around to it.
One day a local pastor called. He told me Herschel had cancer, no insurance and
asked if we could help. Of course, we did and I drove by to see Herschel.
We would talk and Herschel told me one day how he regretted the decisions he
had made as a young man. He especially regretted the loss of time with his family.
He told me that he was trying to teach his little grandson to make right decisions.
He told me how much he loved the boy. I understood as only a grandfather can.
It was hard to watch the disease consumed him. Then he was gone.
Walked back to the truck and sat a minute thinking. I remembered driving past
that old house and seeing that little grandson sitting on the steps with his hands
covering his face. It hurt to know he was missing his grandfather.
We all make mistakes. Some of them result in us being locked up, if not in concrete
and steel then in the hardness of our hearts. But love, love is the key that opens the
lock, that softens the heart and brings new beginnings. We can’t regain the time
which has been lost, but we can make the most of that which remains.
For me, that will include the determination to not be so quick in judging a man on
his past. And, quicker to love more.
Love. The greatest of these...
Grand Musician of the Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F. of Texas 2008-2009, 2015-2016,
2018-2020(and the beat goes on )
When asked 'Why the Kilt?'
I respond-The why is F.T.H.O.I. (For The H--- Of It)
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Good for you that you visited your neighbor while he was in the hospital.
it's one of the great acts of mercy, that none of us do often enough.
Social norms aren't changed by Congress or Parliament; they're changed by a sufficient number of people ignoring the existing ones and publicly practicing new ones.