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Felix woke up at seven to sit outside on his front porch and watch the sunrise.
Approaching his seventy-fifth year, he was perched quietly on his Adirondack chair,
breathing in the warm Rhode Island summer air. His wrinkled face and deeply recessed
eyes were fixed straight ahead, as if looking through everything and everybody. As he sat
emotionlessly, little children rode their bikes a few feet from him, but, as usual, he did
not acknowledge them and they reacted in the same way. The children, along with all the
neighbors, had long ago given up on conversation with the always grumpy old man. In
their eyes, Felix and his chair morphed into one single silent inanimate object.
Felix was not friendly to anybody, but he had not always been that way. Just a
few years ago he was a very warm and happy person. He was always cheerful and
jubilant, but that ended when his wife Carmen passed away. Felix and Carmen had
lovingly raised four wonderful children. The oldest was Sophia, then came Robert,
Gemma was third, and the youngest was Aiden. They were all brown haired and blue
eyed. They meant the world to Felix and Carmen, and the proud parents did everything
and more for their kids. Each child was unique and had a special talent. Sophia loved to
ice skate. Felix would sign her up for classes, competitions, and innumerable private
lessons. He would never miss any of her competitions, no matter how distant the location.
Her father was Sophia’s number one fan. Felix and Carmen cried for days when Sophia
married and moved out of state. Robert loved the New York Yankees, and he would
never miss a game on the radio. Felix would get the team’s schedule every season and
demand that his dental office staff not schedule him with patients when the Yankees were
on the radio. Robert’s dad made sure he was home by game time so he could join Robert
to listen to their favorite team. Robert knew all the statistics on the Yankees going back
many years. He could rattle off the batting averages of every Yankee that played the
game. Robert went off to be a broadcaster for the Cleveland Indians. When Robert left he
insisted that Felix keep his most prized possession —a baseball autographed by Lou
Gemma loved to read the comic strips in the daily newspaper. Each day at
breakfast she and Felix would read through them while laughing hysterically. Their
favorite comics would be kept in a pile that would continue to get higher and higher.
Felix never quit looking through the daily comics. Even after Gemma got married and
moved to California, Felix continued to read and save them. The pile had gradually
become a mountain, yet he still could not find the strength to throw them away.
Aiden loved Christmas time. She loved to decorate the whole house inside and
out. Each Christmas she and Felix would go and get the biggest, fattest, greenest pine tree
that they could find. They would then take out the ornaments that the kids made when
they were younger. After all the decorations were put up, Aiden would make them hot
chocolate and they would sit by the fire. Felix missed Aiden so much that he never again
took the Christmas decorations out of the box . Felix was very saddened when she
moved with her soldier husband to Germany.
After Carmen died, Felix never left his house. He stopped all social activities. He
even had his groceries delivered, demanding that the delivery boy leave the groceries on
the porch and find his money in the mailbox. His only moments of semi-happiness came
when he made his daily ritual visit to his basement to look at the items in his basement
which triggered fond memories of his past.
In the early Fall, as the cooling nights started to turn the leaves brown, a new
family moved into a neighboring house. As the new arrivals were unpacking, a boy who
looked to be eight or nine years old dragged his bike off the truck and pedaled toward
Felix. The boy moved with great confidence and maintained a wide smile. As he
approached Felix, the old man turned his eyes away. The boy calmly parked his
bike on the sidewalk and walked up to the porch.
“Hello,” said the boy with a wide smile.
Felix did not respond.
Unfazed, the boy exclaimed: “My name is Tony; what is your name?”
Felix, shocked at the boy’s boldness, answered, “Felix”.
The boy started shooting questions like a machine gun: “Where do you work?
What are your hobbies? Do you play golf? Do you like baseball? I like
baseball! “I am a pitcher!”
Felix stared at Tony and was speechless.
Tony, keeping his wide smile, politely said, “Good Bye, Sir, I’ll see you
The next morning, as he had promised, Tony walked up the steps and noticed that
the front door was open. He walked in and saw the light coming from the basement. He
walked down the creaking steps into the dingy basement to where Felix was. A pair of ice
skates hung on the dusty stone walls. Beside the steps was an old radio, a neatly stacked
pile of newspapers and a huge box of Christmas decorations sat nearby. The picture
frames had several photos in them displaying a happy family. Tony noticed Felix
standing right behind him. He did not budge.
Tony looked at Felix and said: “Who are all these people? Are they your family?”
Felix did not know what to say, his eyes filled with tears. He had no words to
describe how sad and alone he had become.
Felix finally found the words and said, “Yes, that is my family. They mean the
world to me, but they do not come to see me very often. They are busy with their own
lives. My wife died about five years ago and I have not been the same since. Nothing
makes me happy like it used to. I come down to the basement everyday because these
memories are the only things that keep me alive.”
Tony thought of a great idea. He blurted out, “Well maybe if all this stuff can
create happy memories for you and your family, they could do the same for other
There was a long silence until Tony exclaimed, “Well I should get going before
my mom starts getting worried! I’ll come see you tomorrow Felix! Bye!”
Felix sat in a daze for several minutes after the boy left. Then he slowly walked
down the basement steps and moved toward the objects of his past. He stood there, not moving a muscle, for a long time. Then he smiled for the first time since before
Carmen died and walked up the steps at a faster pace than he had in years.
The next morning, as the boy pedaled toward Felix’s house and, as he got close to
the house, he noticed a table on Felix’s front yard with several items scattered on it.
There was a newly polished pair of ice skates, an old radio, and piles of newspapers
among some other items. At the front of the table was a quickly scribbled note that read
“SALE.” As the boy got off his bike, the old man moved quickly toward him. Felix,
smiling and with an old baseball with some writing on it in his hand, said, “To throw a
curve ball you put your index finger here and your thumb around the side.”
Arlington Heights, Illinois
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