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Part 2 - Conversation With An 86-Year-Old

Part 2 - Conversation With An 86-Year-Old

Hello and good day!

When I left off yesterday, I had struck up a conversation with a customer who visited one of our chocolate shops. We were sitting on a black metal bench in a shopping center. It was lovely out, hot, and with long rows of rolling white clouds in the sky.

I could see that the fellow had something on his mind that he wanted to share, so I sat and listened. All the while, I was waving my sign that read, "Soft Serve At Fortunato Chocolate" at the people walking by.

"After I graduated from Yale Law, I wanted to do something in social justice. Not social justice how people use the term now. I didn't want to be an activist. I wanted to help the less fortunate," he said.

"But instead, I got into corporate law like so many of my classmates. I'd just been married, and I had to put food on the table. I did that for twenty years and we had kids and it was a good thing."

"After the kids were grown, I was pretty young yet, and I still wanted to do something in social justice. I hadn't given up on that, so I applied to be the president of a small liberal arts university. I ended up getting the vice presidency instead."

Just then, this fellow's wife came walking slowly back. "They'll replace the stolen walking sticks," she said. "They just need your card so they can look up the transaction."

The old fellow reached into his pocket and took the card out of his wallet. "Are you sure you don't want to come with me?" she asked.

"No, for some reason I'm spilling my guts to this young man and telling him my life story. And it's good for you to go alone. It keeps you strong and sharp," said the husband.

"Did you tell him about the orthodox Jewish boy I was dating when I met you?" she asked. "I didn't tell him anything about our courtship," he said.

"I was dating this orthodox Jewish boy and I really liked him. He was smart and seemed to be going places. We were Catholics, and I would have had to convert. My parents would have allowed it, but my mom was worried that keeping a kosher kitchen would be too much work," she said. She was fighting back laughter.

"Then I met this one here," she said pointing at her husband. "I liked him much more than the Jewish boy and I brought him home to meet my parents." "After my mom got to know him, she said that maybe keeping a kosher kitchen wouldn't be so bad after all."

When the laughing died off, she walked away, one unsure step at a time, with the card in her hand.

The man looked at me and continued. "You know what my dad said to me when I told him I'd be the vice president of a college?" he asked.

I shook my head. "What did he say?" I asked.

"He asked how come I wasn't good enough to be president. Can you imagine? I was a grown man with grown children and my dad was still criticizing me. He was like that his whole life."

"When I was in high school, I was a star basketball player, and my dad never came to a single game. We won the championship one year and I scored 75% of the points in that game."

"I got home and told my dad about it. I was very proud, as you can imagine. He asked how many assists I had. I told him I didn't have many because I was the primary scorer and he got on my case for not passing enough." "He was never happy for us. My brother and sister had their self-esteem beat out of them, but I always fought back and never gave in."

"Even so, I've been through years of therapy. It helped me a lot. You might not believe it, given that I'm sitting here talking to a stranger about my dad issues as an 86-year-old man. Therapy has been very good for me. I've always carried around a lot of anger towards my father."

Now the wife came back holding a piece of paper. "They'll replace the stolen sticks. We'll have to come pick them up from this location in a few days. They don't have any in stock at the moment. Another location will send them over," she said.

The old man was beaming at his wife. He stood up and gave her his seat. "Look at you. You did it! You must be tired. Sit here. I'm almost finished," said the husband.

As an aside, the store that replaced the stolen sticks, even though they didn't have to, was REI. Good on them.

The 86-year-old man stood up and he had a stern look on his face. I was sitting on the bench looking up at him and the long rows of rolling white clouds were his backdrop. He looked at me with his perfectly trimmed grey mustache sitting over a serious mouth, his bespectacled eyes firm, his full head of grey hair, parted on the side, impeccable.

"Here is the point. Be good to your kids and be good to your wife Adam. That's what I want to tell you. You don't want your kids to be 86 someday and still complaining about you whenever they get a chance." "And if it wasn't for this precious woman right here. I don't know what I would have done with my life," he said.

He teared up a bit now and turned to put his hands on either side of her face. She leaned in to rest her head against the side of his hip and she wrapped her arms around his legs. He put one of his arms around her shoulder to pull her in closer. They stayed like that for several moments, embracing.

"62 years with this woman, Adam. Can you imagine?" he said. "62 years with this man," she said, letting out a sigh. He grabbed her hands to help her up.

"Thank you, Adam. You are one of the best conversationalists I've ever met. Top shelf. We'll be back for more chocolate when we come to pick up the sticks," he said.

I enjoyed that comment because I barely spoke the entire time. This is the true art of being judged an exquisite conversationalist. Stay quiet and listen as much as you can. Ask questions to spur the person along.

The two walked delicately to their car. I watched from the bench. The husband opened the door and helped his wife in. He walked around the front and waved goodbye to me from across the parking lot.

"62 years without an accident Adam!" he yelled to me from afar. I gave him a thumbs up and he drove away.

I love owning a chocolate shop.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!