Old Age

by Jack Swenson

I see them walking, not every day, but often enough to surmise that they are on their daily constitutional.  They are old--as in old old.  An Asian couple.  They must have a home somewhere near.  Often I see them as they pass my house; sometimes I pass them as I drive down the road in my truck.  When I spot them, I always greet them.  I wave and smile, say hi, good morning, or whatever.  If I'm in my truck, I toot the horn.  They always smile and nod.  The old man carries a cane, and he raises the walking stick high over his head in a salute.

Both of them are stick thin--skin and bones.  They wear warm clothes, sweaters, scarves, all year long.  They wear comfortable shoes.  She has on ankle sox, which make her look like a Fifties teenager.

My friends never stop and talk.  They nod and say something, but I cannot understand the words.  That may be my fault.  My hearing isn't good.  I enjoy seeing them, though.  They lift my spirits.  Sometimes they walk hand in hand, and when I see them thus, I carry the image with me for the rest of the day.  This is what love is, I think.  This is the way it is supposed to be.

What is their life like, I wonder?  They walk, they eat, they sleep.  What can they do at that age?  Are they too old for life's little pleasures?  The answer comes as I pass them on the canyon road one morning.  I am in my truck headed for a local business park to go for a walk with a friend.  I come up behind the old couple and startle them as I pass.  I honk the horn and wave.  The old man waves back; the woman stops in her tracks, frozen.  Her whey face is blank.  In her right hand she is holding a cigarette.  She holds it like a cup of tea, with thumb and one finger, the other fingers arrayed like a fan.