Meet Jack, I sat next to him in the eye doctor’s office while we each waited for our eyes to dilate. He was a friendly fellow, starting the conversation by asking where I lived and how I felt today. “When you have your health you have everything”, he told me more than once. His hand had a slight tremor and his eyes darted around the room unable to focus easily. His voice was loud and clear, for everyone in the office to hear. I asked him where he lived and he told me he had moved away from and back to Jasper eleven times. “There’s a story there”, I commented and he proceeded to tell me about his life.
“I lived hard and fast when I was young,” he said. “I liked beer and food, partying and had lots of fun. I’m dealing with all that now. I live alone like I have most of my life.” I asked if he had family in Jasper and he said not anymore, everyone else was gone. He told me that his mother was fifty when she had him, his next sibling was over thirty when he was born. I quickly did the math and his mother must have been around fifteen when she gave birth to the first of her thirteen children. Jack worked on oil rigs, traveled the globe digging in over eleven countries, then moved back to Jasper for the last time when he was sure his body couldn’t take anymore. “How are you doing?” He asked me again, and again I told him I was doing well. “When you have your health you have everything,” he said.
We sat in silence for a few minutes, the doctor came by and checked how his eyes were doing and told Jack he would be seen next. Jack asked me if I knew where the jail was in Jasper, I said I knew where it was but had never been in it. “I’ve been in it,” he said proudly, “I was born there.” I commented that there was another great story there and he proceeded to tell me that his father was the Sheriff and his mother gave birth to him in the jail after bringing his Paw his supper. He was the baby of thirteen, mostly raised by his “old maid” sister cause she had time to take care of him.
Jack wished me well and went into the open examining room. As I waited for my turn I was reminded that we never know what lives people have lived. We have no idea of how they got where they are, the choices they made and how they live their lives. We may not be able to cure or care for their current condition, what we can do is listen. Jack obviously just wanted to chat with someone who had not heard his stories. Fresh ears for his lifelong adventures. Today I was fortunate enough to be that person. I gave him the gift of my attention and he gave me great stories, a fair trade if I do say so myself.