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Love Cures All
Someone told me once that its not what you know, its who you know. I didn’t really get what he meant until the day I met someone. A man I’d always known, but never met. Well, I guess ‘man’ is incorrect. . .
I was running through the park, like I do every day. I do it to stay in shape, yeah, but recently it’s the only way I’ve found to relieve the mountain of stress on my shoulders. It’s the only place I get to be alone, even though I’m surrounded by people. Ironic, huh? I jogged through the north end of a path I always take, every day, day after day. Usually the scenery doesn’t change. Different people, yes, but the same trees, same trail, same life. But today, as I passed some benches that dotted the side of the trail, this old man–and I mean old; he must have been into his nineties–was tossing bird seed to some pigeons at his feet. Well, as I passed he landed a square shot right into my brand new Nike Shox. It startled me, what with my listening to music, in my own little world. I stumbled and almost fell. I turned, thinking he had done it on purpose–come to think of it, I bet he did, but not for the reasons I thought at the time–and was ready to give him a piece of my mind. Then, when I actually saw him, I hesitated. Like I said, this guy was old. He was black, and he looked like he’d been through hell and back on more than one occasion. He wore light blue jeans, a gray polo and a Korean Vet ball cap.
“My apologies young man!” he chuckled. “I didn’t see you till it was too late!” His voice was raspy, like the energy it took to speak was extremely taxing. “Damned old age. Takes everything from ya! Your eyes, your ears, your hands,” he flexed his large arthritis-stricken knuckles, “your hair,” then he looked up at me with mischief in his eye, “even takes your damned sex drive right out ya!” then he got caught up in his own joke and began laughing a grating, rough guffaw, one that betrayed years of smoking. It was a laugh that was addicting. I chuckled as I obliged his offer of a seat next to him.
“Name’s Turner,” he said as we shook hands.
“Jimmy,” I said in return.
“So tell me Jimmy, what’s on your mind?”
I didn't know if he could read it in my appearance or he just could tell by the way I was running that I was stressed. “It that obvious?” I asked.
“No, no. I just know how a man thinks, that’s all. Back when I was a young buck like yourself, I’d take my frustrations out on the pavement too.” he waved his cane close to his face, a small smile on his lips. “Not my best idea, I assure you.”
We chuckled together. He patted me on the leg. “So, tell an old man what’s bothering ya.”
I looked off at nothing in particular. “Problems with my girlfriend, I guess.”
For some reason this sent him into another fit of laughter. “Son,” he said, “if a man could go his whole life without the burden of trying to make a woman happy, he could live for an eternity.” I nodded in agreement as we both laughed. “Now,” he said, “explain. What ‘problems’ are you having?”
I shrugged. I felt like I should be uncomfortable talking about my personal life, especially my relationship with Rachel, with a complete stranger. But he seemed harmless enough, and he had a way of making you feel almost homely.
“Well...she might be pregnant.” I felt almost ashamed to say it. But that’s what had me so confused. I mean, I’m barely out of college. How can I be expected to be a father?
“Son, let me tell ya,” he said, “having a child with the woman you love is the greatest experience on this earth.” his voice held a genuine, heartfelt quality that hadn’t been there before.
“Yea, I get all that,” I said, “Im just not sure I’m ready for something like–”
“You love her?” His deep blue eyes seemed to dig into mine.
“Of course I do,” I said without hesitation. Rachel was the one for me, I’d always known that.
“Then you ain’t got nothing to worry ‘bout. Long as there’s love, you can accomplish anything.”
He was right. I was just apprehensive, worried about how to take on life as a father. Hell, I wasn't even a husband yet.
“You wanna hear a secret?” he said as he leaned close. I nodded. “No one is ready to be responsible for another life. Doesn't matter if your married, engaged, or like you are now. Having a child is a lot to manage, especially on top of a full time job. But sometimes, ya just gotta take the plunge! Get your feet wet. And you come out the other side a better man. I can guarantee ya that,” he said with a wink.
No amount of running, even if I ran forever, could’ve put my mind at ease as well as hearing this old timer reassure me.
“Now,” he said with a pat on the shoulder, “Go and see Rachel. Take her in your arms and tell her it’ll be alright. Tell her you’ll be with her always, and that all you need is love. Love cures all ya know.”
He smiled, and I did the same. We shook hands goodbye. As I started to walk away, I pondered what he had said. Wait a minute–I never told him my girlfriend’s name was Rachel. I whipped around to see an empty bench, the only thing left of old Turner was the bird seed on the ground.