the oldest man alive
He was the oldest man alive as far as I knew. Since I was an infant until the last time I saw him at 12 years old he always wore sweatpants and the same sagging stocking cap. If he was not eating, he was asleep. But if he was eating then HE WAS EATING, clearing his plate and then anyones within reach. He would kindly mumble from underneath sagging eyebrows, “Are you planning to finish that?….Oh are you done with that? Excuse me could you pass the…and the….”
He was brilliant.
A nationally acclaimed bird watcher, he flew all over the country and sometimes the world. It was common for him to get all the way to the gate before he exclaimed , “Oh blast I haven’t got a ticket.” He would say it as though he had forgotten a dollar for the bus and just as casually he would turn to whomever he was traveling with and ask if they wouldn’t mind to buy him a ticket. If they wouldn’t mind to buy him a ticket as though it were a quarter for the phone.
What were they to do? They certainly were not going to leave Uncle Dave in Texas or Alaska or Japan.
The same thing happened to people who agreed to take him grocery shopping (he never drove). They would end up paying at the last minute when he ‘realized’ he had not brought his money.
He was never married, never had children. And yet, when he died two hundred people filled a memorial room with wailing. I have never been to a funeral like that. A lot of people did not know one another.
They had one thing in common, all of them. Every single person longed for one more opportunity to buy Dave McNett a plane ticket or a loaf of bread and eggs. Everyone wished he was there, to eat the turkey breast they were not through with or insist they run an errand for him.
In life he had been no more apologetic for his nature than a swan, finch or jay is. That is refreshing because it is human.
Everyone needs something most of the time.
The trick is to remember how to do it so well that it is wept after when it is gone.