She had always been alone. But never lonely. Today was different. She missed a lot of things and that made her heart heavy. The last time she felt this emotion was 60 years ago. She was 10 then and had just lost her mother. She remembered that day vividly. She was standing on the patio of her house , not able to believe what had just happened. Her mom was with her the previous day, playing, cooking, working and it was such a normal day. 24 hours later her world had turned upside down. Her little heart weighed so much that she had to sit down. Her dad had walked over to her, hugged her tight and whispered into her ears ” When you have loved someone so much, that person occupies such a big place in your heart that their physical absence shouldn’t matter. The person remains there forever and ever.” She never cried after that. Her mom remained alive and guided her throughout her journey.
She always remained busy post her mom’s death. School, College and then Job. And she never regretted. She was a topper in school and university, a top research scholar and she retired as a lecturer from one of the top universities. Her life was good. Her work, her hobbies, her friends, her garden and her love for all those whom she considered worthy of it. Never did she think of finding that “one man” who could be her companion. Never did she think of anything beyond her plans. And she somehow did not plan for a wedding or kids or even pets.
The day she got retired, she was very excited. She had a plan for the next 10 years. Lot of reading, writing, visiting friends in different parts of the world, more focus on health, all these made into the plan.
On the first day post retirement, she rushed to the library early in the morning. She wanted to borrow some books, spend an hour in the library and visit the nursery to buy some planters. Post lunch, she had to be in her garden. As she sat in the library reading , she laughed out loud at a joke from Roald Dahl’s “Marvelous Joke Book”. She heard the man sitting across the table also laugh out loud. He showed her the book and it was the same book. They laughed again. They exchanged their views on the book and got talking about how they had loved to read Roald Dahl’s books since childhood. His favorite quote from Roald Dahl books was “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” And her favorite quote was “It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself.”
Once both of them finished picking up books, they proceeded to check out. She was standing behind him. She chuckled ” This man is so big. I can easily hide behind him and never be found”. He responded as though he had heard her. He said ” You cannot even be seen when you stand behind me , young lady. You are so petite.”. That is when they introduced themselves. He was a retired Army Officer and had just moved into the neighborhood post retirement. He wanted to settle down in this city because he had spent his childhood in this quiet and beautiful city.
As they walked to the parking area, they talked about the city, its beauty and how residents had played an important role in maintaining the beauty and serenity of the city. He was happy to find out that she had herself led a lot of initiatives in ensuring that the city stayed away from unwanted urbanization drives.
He accompanied her to the nursery which was next to the library. He waited as she went through the new arrivals in the nursery and got all the things that she needed. He helped her carry some of the stuff that she had picked up from the nursery to her car. As she spoke to him, she realized that he was a happy go lucky man with a big heart and an even bigger mouth. He spoke non stop. She never liked people who talked too much. But he was an exception. There was something about him that made her listen to him and talk to him. She had met many such men in her college and work life. But there was something about him that made her very comfortable and relaxed. Or had retirement made her comfortable and relaxed! She couldn’t come to a conclusion.
During the next couple of months, they kept meeting. Initially unplanned in the library or the walking trail or the farmer’s market. Later on, planned, in the coffee shop or for lunch and dinner.
With each meeting, she discovered a softer side of the big man. He never got married. He was the guardian of 4 kids. The kids were of his best friend who got killed in the war. The day he visited his friend’s house after he was martyred was when he decided against having his own family. His friend’s wife also passed away in quick succession and these kids became his family. He made sure they never felt deprived. They were all doing well now. Two of them had joined the army and two were doing their graduation. His eyes twinkled even more when he spoke about them.
She had got used to that twinkle in his eyes. Though they grew 10 years older together, that twinkle in his eyes had remained intact. And today she missed that twinkle and that is what made her feel lonely.
To Be Continued….