Monday, February 3, 2014

The Impact of a Stranger

This may be the world's most random blog post, but I'll write it anyways.

Mckenna and I take lots of walks lately. The weather has been gorgeous, and I love nothing more than strolling (we move SLOW) down the sidewalk listening to Mckenna ramble as she pushes her baby in a stroller, rides her bike, rides her tryke, walks etc. We were out on one of our walks when we ran into a man. We chatted a little while making friendly neighbor chat. He is in town for a couple months with his wife staying in his son's house to escape the cold winter in Canada. He's originally from Ireland. He passed on little words of wisdom on child rearing. He told me what a "lovely job" his wife did raising his 3 sons and bragged about all 4 of them. His eyes twinkled. He charmed me in the way an accent and 75-year-old smile lines can. He was dear with Mckenna. And in a tip of his adorable beret, he rode home. I had a smile on my face for the next few hours; my heart warm from the interaction with a sweet, caring old man.

Fast forward a few days.

Mckenna and I were out on another walk. I saw the same gentleman riding towards us. I recognized him first by his beret, and then by his smile lines. He hopped off his bike to chat. I apologized for not getting his name the last time we talked. Michael…pronounced "me-hall" in Gaelic. He gave me the full history. A long history. But essentially he would have been a Prince. I laughed and told him I would just call him Prince "Me-hall". No one in the neighbor had to know the long back story. He smiled. "Do you have a sweetheart name I can call you?" He quipped back. "You can just call me sweetheart," I laughed. He had one of the biggest smiles I've seen. And then he told me he wanted to recite a poem for me. He has memorized 300 poems to ward off Alzheimer's, he informed me. Mckenna waited patiently on the curb as Prince "Me-hall" told me about the poem. A poet, W.B. Yeats met a woman he loved that refused his marriage proposal multiple times. He wrote her a poem and had it read at the alter at her wedding to another man, and then sent it to her every year after. And then, using a piece of padding from Mckenna's helmet as a prop, he recited the poem to me. He started…

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book (handing me the prop)
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep

I let me eyes leave his for a minute, and looked into Mckenna's.

He stopped. "I'm reciting you a love poem and you look at your daughter? She's just your daughter!" He laughed. "Sorry! Sorry! Start again"

He started again. I felt a little uncomfortable. I hate eye contact for too long. It makes me uncomfortable. But I made myself look into his sweet eyes the entirety of the poem.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And his face amid a crowd of stars.

He finished and the serious look that was on his face as he recited the poem melted into another grin. I told him it was beautiful. "Amanda, I will give you a copy of that poem, so you will remember me until the day you die." I smiled. "I leave in 2.5 weeks. Surely you'll be sad." "Of course. Mckenna and I will both wear black as it will be a day of mourning." I grinned. He jumped on his bike and as he rode away, he looked back, tipped his beret, and yelled, "You are special, Amanda."

I'm not sure what it was about our encounters with Prince "Me-hall" that warmed my heart so much. Maybe it was the twinkle in his eyes, or the way he imparted wisdom in a way I wanted to take notes. I don't think I'll ever forget Prince "Me-hall". It reminded me just how much knowledge and wisdom our elders can have. It made me wish that I could have tea with him every afternoon, and that he would be here year round to have Mckenna go over and learn from the trials and triumphs that created each of the lines on his face. But more than anything it reminded me of the impact of a stranger. I need to always remember my interactions with people could have an impact just as he had an impact on me. And maybe I need to read more poetry, that poem was beautiful!