Saturday, May 29, 2010



there's a mcdonald's about a five-minute walk from my place. i go there every so often when i don't feel like making coffee at home and need an excuse to get some fresh air. i usually get a coffee or these days, an ice coffee- and sometimes, even indulge in a cheeseburger.

a few months ago, i had gone for the usual and decided to stay and have my coffee there. i serendipitously sat beside an older gentleman. after a bit of time, he struck up conversation. i think initially, i wasn't particularly moved to converse with him; but he persisted, saying something once every 30 seconds or so, things like, "you are enjoying your coffee," or asking, "what is your background?". like i mentioned, he was very gentle, and surprisingly, with each thing he said- i became more charmed than annoyed. he eventually asked how old i thought he may be.

at this point, i looked at his face, considered his demeanor, and decided on 65-70. i said, "65? 70?", he lightly smacked my shoulder and turned his head away, laughing.
"i'm 93." if my memory serves me correctly, i must have jokingly, but disrespectfully called him a liar- almost automatically before i realized how rude i was being. then i just stared at him, an involuntary reaction, in disbelief. he just sat there looking ahead with a smile on his too-young-and-energetic-to-be-93-face. he nodded slightly, either a product of his age or his amusement.

suddenly, i wanted to hear everything about mr. santos. i wanted wisdom, insight and life; what brought him there, to mcdonald's on a tuesday afternoon?

he used to play a lot of tennis. his wife doesn't let him drink wine because he's a lightweight. his children are medical professionals and he is proud of them. he has great-grandchildren. everyday he watches some tv, takes a walk, sometimes bikes to mcdonald's to talk to and watch people. he plays the lotto, a lot of it, (he flashed me the inside pocket of his jacket, overflowing with tickets and scratch cards). he listens to tapes of music from his time before he goes to bed.

i couldn't help but notice how much he laughed, how happy he was- and i quickly became envious. while we talked, a few people would call to him, "pa pa, see you later," and he'd wave and smile. one man turned to me and said, "he still rides his bike! he's 93!"
"that's my bmw," he quickly returned. i couldn't believe how many people knew him, in a place that about 20 minutes ago, i deemed as just a fast food restaurant of strangers. mr. santos, in sharing a bit of his life, taught me to be happy with all aspects of life, no matter how minuscule; to appreciate and love the world and time i happen to be in.

since then, i saw him only once more, but it didn't seem like he remembered me, (which almost makes that exchange we had all the much more magical, surreal). every time i go for coffee now, i look around to see if he's there. that memory rests in a warm place in my heart- and it always gets me excited about living and the possibility of the future.

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