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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"I Forgot My Sunglasses!"

I took a path today that passed through Union Square; a little different than my usual course that leads me through Washington Square Park. Union Square frequently has a Farmer's market and it's nice to make my way through the crowd observing the mix of city and country folk doing business together. I also like to see (and sample) the vendor's wares. Not today though, there was no farmer's market today. That's OK. I'm trying to catch my train anyway, so I maintain my steady pace through to the other side. I get to the north end of the park expecting to continue straight but the light changed so I make a quick left near the corner and cross the street there. 

As I step into the intersection, I notice an elderly man carefully making his way to the curb on the other side of the street. He's looking directly at me; and for some unknown reason he reminds me of my Uncle Ern. He didn't particularly look like him, but I guess his mannerism was similar. Most of you didn't have the pleasure of knowing Uncle Ern; I could go on at length about him, but I won't for lack of time to do it properly. I'll say this though; in his later years his physical form was only a shadow of the strong, stoic man that he was in his younger days. Uncle Ern had a very dry sense of humor that always took you by surprise when you realized that he was being funny, which was not often. Even in his old age, he had a special light in his eye and a certain wry look that betrayed the sharp intelligence within.

As I crossed the intersection I had a choice: to look away or to maintain eye contact with the old man. I guess you know which I chose. He made it to the corner and took hold of the lamp post for support just as I reached that side. He looked like he wanted to say something to me and I assumed that he was going to ask for assistance. I went over to his side of the lamp post and not the other side, which is where I was originally heading. As I approached him I noticed that same wry smile on his face; it seemed out of place for the situation. He took my elbow in a familiar way, as he might have if he was going to ask for help. He said something which I didn't hear, so I put my hand on his shoulder and leaned in to hear him better.

 "Your head is so bright..... I forgot my sunglasses."
I look back at him and his smile is now full. He continues: "It hurt my eyes."

I couldn't help but laugh. Just like Uncle Ern would, he had caught me completely off guard! His smile was so bright and disarming it demanded that it be returned in full. After I stopped laughing, I told him that I was sorry, but this was all I had to work with.

I suppose another man might have been insulted by the joke, but how could I be? I am who I am and I'm OK with that. I shared a full laugh with a kindly old man in the middle of Manhattan. For a moment it was as if he was perhaps some incarnation of Uncle Ern; a kindred soul of his sent to remind me of things that really matter. Joy can be found anywhere. Love is eternal.

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