There was an old man who lived on a quiet block in a little town.
His house was one of the first to be built. Times were different then.
One morning, he came out and the moving truck pulled into his driveway.
His daughter and son in-law phoned saying they would be there soon and not to worry.
The old man looked up and asked the sky, “Where has it all gone?”
He thought about the decades that had gone by.
He thought about the people who moved away and those who moved in.
As he looked at the neighboring houses,
the old man noticed that everything was updated and modified.
All the homes were redone, except for his.
All of the other houses were either blown-up or blown-out.
They went from three bedroom homes to five bedrooms
and some with a nanny quarters.
Looking around . . .
He shook his head in disbelief.
“This place has changed,” he said.
He looked to the middle of the block.
Years ago, this is where the ice cream man would stop his truck.
All the kids would crowd around him.
The Old Man smiled, as if he could see it –
he smiled as if he could see it all,
including the times when the children on the block played
or ran across the lawns through sprinklers
on hot summer days.
He thought about the love of his life.
He thought about the wife who he buried two years before.
And he asked once more, “Where has it all gone?”
Staring at the tree in his front yard,
the old man remembered his baby girl.
She was sitting on the bottom branch for a picture.
He thought about the time she climbed up on her own and said,
“Look Daddy, I did it all by myself!”
“It’s not fair,” he thought to himself.
“It all went too Goddamn fast.”
The movers began to ready their equipment and load the boxes on to the truck.
They moved quickly and the way they spoke to each other; it all seemed so emotionless –
at least, to them it was.
Of course they were emotionless, this wasn’t their house.
The old man wasn’t their family
They never lived in this home.
They never walked through the front door with a young, pregnant wife.
They never sat up late with their teenage daughter to help her with her homework
or listen to her when she cried because some teenage boy broke her heart.
What would they know about raising a family in this house?
“Careful with those boxes,” said the old man.
“There’s a lot of memories there.”
“No problem sir!” replied one of the young movers.
The old man scanned the home he knew for so many years.
He watched the movers pack his things in total disbelief.
What did they know?
How could they know how it felt to have the kids move out?
Or, in the twilight of life,
how would they know what it means to become familiar with the terms,
“Until death do us part?”
The old man turned around and walked into his home.
Nearly everything was gone.
Everything had already been shipped out
or packed up in labeled boxes.
His eyes began to tear as he spoke out loud to the love of his life.
“This place just isn’t the same without you, sweetheart.
But I’ll be ok.
Melanie found a nice place for me to live.
It’s small, but I don’t need anything so big.
At least, not without you anyway.”
His voice cracked –
“I remember when we first moved in here.
God, we were so young. And you were beautiful.
There were only three other homes on the street. Remember?
Remember when the kids used to run and catch fireflies?
God, we were spectacular together.”
Looking up at the stairs that led to their bedroom,
the old man explained, “We were the first to come here. And now . . .
I’m the last to leave.”
Picking up his wedding picture, which was more than 50 years old
and the only photo that wasn’t packed, he said,
“I sure do miss you.”
Melanie came through the front door in a pair of capri pants, a little top,
and her sunglasses on her head.
She was holding a cup of coffee in each hand.
One for her and one for her Father.
The old man turned around to see his baby girl.
He saw her as he wanted to.
Not as a mother with a family of her own
and not as a grown woman . . .
but as his little girl.
She asked “Are you ok?”
Then Melanie ran over to her Father
She reached to hold him tightly
and give her Father a hug.
The old man’s eyes were still watering with tears.
Then he smiled. He closed his eyes to squeeze the tear
as he held his little girl and said,
“I’ve never been better.”
To a daughter, there is nothing like a hug from her father.
But to an old man, there is nothing like a hug from his baby girl…
You should remember that.