The Old Geezer on the Park Bench

I went to a high school that was located in a downtown area.  One of our greatest privileges was that we were on an open campus.  During lunchtime we would journey out into a park that sat across the street from the school.  There was not much to do there, other than to hang out and watch the senior citizens that congregated on the well shaded park benches. 

The groups of gray-haired individuals remained fairly constant, as did the benches or picnic tables that they occupied.  You would find silver-colored crew cuts hovering over chess boards, or packs of women busily working away at their knitting.  Regardless of their endeavor at the time, these packs of elderly also enjoyed gossiping away the time.  Every now and then you would see an older person sitting alone at the far end of the park.  They seemed lost in reminiscence, oblivious to the world around them.  Somehow I always felt badly for them and their self-imposed solitude.

At the tender age of sixteen, I was fairly certain that anybody over the age of fifty was ancient.  Having hit the half century mark in the past year; I have upgraded my definition to mean anyone over the age of seventy-five!

There is a city park not too far off from where we live.  At any given time there are at least a half a dozen dogs frolicking out on the grass.  Needless to say, it is a preferred destination when my hound and I take our morning walk!  She enjoys the new scents that have been left overnight and I find myself soothed by being out in the open air.

This oasis within the city is some two blocks square, with a small man-made lake sitting in the center.  A fountain spews water near the center of the oversized pond and ducks line the shore.  Several paved trails wind around the perimeter, with park benches strategically situated under large shade trees.

Working our way around a bend early one morning, Xena and I came upon an old man sitting back on one of the sunlit benches.  He was staring out at the water and did not seem to notice us approaching.  My memory reeled back some thirty-five years to the poor old man sitting alone on a bench in the downtown park near my high school.  Looking at the person in front of me, it all seemed so sad.

As we neared the individual, I noticed that he was lost in thought.  Yet there appeared to be a self-satisfied look etched upon his well wrinkled face.  Being the park’s unofficial social director, my hound immediately went over to greet him.  The kindly man gave her a slow “hello” and a gentle pat on the head.  She became putty in his hands.  After exchanging a few pleasantries, we headed back down the path.

Shortly we were half way around the lake and directly across from where the old man was seated.  There was a smile on his face as he lounged back against the bench.  The grin was not directed at us, but rather off to our left.  I looked in that direction and saw nothing in particular that could be captivating his interest.  Obviously he was looking back in time to a place where I had never been.

By my estimation, this individual had to be well into his eighties.  I was certain that he had led a full life too.  There was a sense of ease about him, the sign of somebody who has nothing left to prove.  He did not seem to mind being alone, accompanied by the ghosts of those he had loved and known throughout his life.  He was simply satisfied.

As I look ahead to the next thirty years of my time on this earth, I have to ask myself a critical series of questions.  Will I be sitting on a bench sometime in the future, that fond of where my life went?  Will I remember those who passed before me in a cloud of love?  Will I have touched the lives of others and made them better people in the process?  Will I be satisfied with what was a “life well-lived?”

An odd thing has occurred over the past several mornings.  I have found myself treasuring every moment that goes by, knowing that it will be the stuff of my memories all too soon!  I find a compelling need to reach out to family, friends, and strangers at every opportunity.  Today I am creating what will be my yesterdays in the near future!

Here, let me slide over a bit.  Let’s sit on this bench together!

About Jerry V. Dollar, Author, Humorist, Observer of the Human Condition

When not trekking around the globe, Jerry Dollar can be found in Colorado Springs, CO where he lives with his wife Robbi. Besides an affinity for writing and travel; he is also an avid bodybuilder, a very prolific reader, and an enthusiastic observer of the human condition. Jerry has published two books which are available on: Lulu, Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and IBook. "Announcing a Flight Delay" is a hilarious recap of the author's experiences as a million mile flyer. "A Dollar's Worth" is a collection of observations on the human condition, which originally appeared as blog posts. Dr. Dollar has served in various senior executive management capacities over the past 25 years. He has previously worked within the healthcare, insurance, software, and several other high technology industries. Jerry is recognized for his expertise in creating the foundations for emerging organizations to succeed in complex sales environments. He is also well known for his leadership in guiding technology companies through rapid growth phases. Jerry speaks five languages and has conducted business in over 70 countries on six continents. He holds particular expertise in the Latin American and Western European geographic areas. Dr. Dollar holds a BA in International Affairs, a BA in Spanish, an MBA in Marketing, and a PhD in Organizational Development. He has authored numerous professional articles, various training courses, and has conducted seminars and conferences around the world.
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2 Responses to The Old Geezer on the Park Bench

  1. Thank you for writing this. At age 69 and retired for a few years part of me wants to be like the man on the bench, enjoying the activity of being inactive, and part of me wants to be doing things I didn’t have the time or inclination to do when I was raising a family and working. Doing and not doing aren’t mutually exclusive, but a matter of balance. I’ve not quite found that balance yet.

  2. Robin says:

    Sitting on that bench too, Jerry. I just hit 50 myself and am savoring all the little things more than ever. You and your readers might be interested in a new film festival happening in Boulder, Colorado this September – the Life and Death Matters Festival ( Our goal with this new and different festival is to raise awareness, cultivate sensitivity, and develop empathy around how we meet life challenges. We want to also offer ways for the audience to feel alive and joyful. Maybe you know of a film that includes a park bench 🙂

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