Happy to be wrong

At the beginning of last November, I posted Life’s Grandest Question which tells of a shared experience with a dog-loving neighbor. I called him Mr. Johnson. While on my regular dog-walking route, I was shocked to see a much beaten down—but not beaten—Mr. Johnson, hunched over, skin gray and sallow. That day, just three months ago, I was confident that I would never see him alive again.

And so, imagine my shock today when I spied Mr. Johnson slowly maneuvering his stooped form into the passenger seat of a garaged car. Grinning from ear to ear, I crossed the road just as he opened the car door to talk. Still sitting, Mr. Johnson grasped my hand in a surprisingly firm grip. His wife patiently looked on.

Still grasping my hand, he said, “Well, aren’t we a pair.”

I smiled warmly, replying in a dragged-out Parkinson’s slur, “I thought you had checked out on us. I’m glad to be wrong.”

Mr. Johnson sat in his car while I stood, two of us clasping hands with the fervent trust of shared hardship, both of us beaming as if privy to a private joke. We shared a long second of nature’s calming serenity, neither willing to relinquish his grip.

Before turning to continue my walk, I faced off in front of Mr. Johnson, the former Marine, and rendered a salute, just as I had done three months ago. But now the imminence of death’s inner doorway was not in question.

Peace is created when two like souls share in time’s hesitation, pausing the individual struggles ruminating on the road ahead. Uniquely aware of all presence, just two strangers in mutually carefree ignorance of the other’s first name.

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