About five years ago I made friends with a much older man. He was 84 and I was 50. He had been a bomber pilot in his youth and had lots of interesting stories to relate about his past life. He had become a widow quite some years back and his five children all lived in different parts of the world and didn't seem to have much time for him.
He was quite a grumpy old man on the outside but with a little patience I got to know that his grumpiness was simply a way of protecting himself as his problem was that he really felt quite lonely.
I knew him for about 3 years before he died and we would spend many afternoons having a soft drink on the terrace of a cafe and talking about all sorts of aspects of life. He began to trust me and I tried to make him feel that eventhough his family were not with him that he was not alone. When ever there was a party or a dinner or any event I would try and get him included and slowly make him feel that he had a place with me and my friends. His grumpiness started to get a little better and he even started smiling and laughing again.
He was so interesting and, as with most older people, had so much wisdom after having gone through so many different experiences throughout his life and I always loved hearing his stories. He would give me advice about everything and I always valued his judgements very highly and learnt a lot from him.
He told me one day that out of all the younger people, as we were called by him!, that I was the one who had my thoughts of life on the right track and I felt so very honoured to have a man that I admired so much think of me in that way.
Unfortunately, he was suffering from cancer and towards the end of my friendship with him he was becoming very frail and to get him to come out with his walking stick I would have to go and collect him from his front door and help him slowly to the terrace in the sun and then after our chat take him back again. He could no longer stay out for so long as he would tire very easily and also get out of breath.
One day he took a turn for the worse, the ambulance came to take him to the hospital and shortly after he died.
It really left a mark on me when I heard the news and realized how hard it is to get old on your own, something that I had never taken the time to think about before, and so I am very glad that between me and my friends we at least were able to give this remarkable old man a few more happy moments before he left this earth.