On the way to work today I noticed an old man walking along the side of the road. He walked feebly, with the help of a cane, then I noticed who it was.
When I was 17, I had a best friend named Jerome. He was a poor kid from the poor side of town. We used to work together at the local Canadian Tire store. We were flunkies. The manager had several kids he used to do all the store’s dirty work, such as cleaning up spills, tearing up boxes, clearing snow, and emptying trash…things the regular workers didn’t want to do. He called us ‘flunkies’.
Me and Jerome often cruised around town together. I had my first car back then, and it was fun to ride around town in the search of girls. Remember, we were only kids back then, and this was great fun. Often we would have a car full of girls, and we would drive around like we were the kings of the world.
One evening, Jerome called and said he wouldn’t be going ‘girl hunting’ for awhile. He met somebody. “Wow!” I thought to myself, “Jerome is settlin’ down.” He was quite smitten with the girl, even though I found he mistreated her when they were out together.
One evening, we all went to the movie. Jerome was especially cruel to the girl, and I didn’t like what I saw. She stormed out of the theater, crying. He basically told her to ‘F**K off!, which I guess she did. On my way home, I seen her walking by herself. I stopped to ask if she wanted a ride, which she agreed.
When we drove up to her house, I did something I never did before, I asked if she would like to go out sometime. I know, my best friend’s girl, but he didn’t treat her good, and she was so pretty….long black hair that almost touched her waist, and the prettiest face ever. I couldn’t resist. And she said yes.
That was the start of it; me and Pauline. We dated for a few nights, to get to know each other a bit better, and then she introduced me to her family. I must say, her dad and I got along so good. Her mom was a bit of a flake, popping ‘nerve pills’ and complaining all the time, but her dad, he was a very nice person. In the two years Pauline and I dated, Amos became a second father to me.
He said I was like the son he never had. We went fishing together, and basically had long talks, mostly about life. He was a simple man who worked at anything he could find. He worked in the construction industry, mostly building houses. He never had his carpenter papers, because he couldn’t read. Amos was ashamed of this.
Pauline had a sister named Anne who was as wild as the wind. She had a boyfriend who took her places, but treated her cruel. In fact, I know of several occasions where he actually cheated on her, sometimes while she was with him. I knew that relationship wouldn’t last. It didn’t. Neither did me and Pauline.
Pauline had told me about her job. She said she used to clean up doctors’ offices for money ‘under the table’. A few dollars here and there, but enough to get by. This wasn’t true. She didn’t work at all. It was all lies. When we weren’t together, she would sit in her room alone, popping pills her mother would provide. “It’s her nerves, that’s why she is the way she is” her mother would say. I don’t think it was her nerves, I think it was the pills. Either way, I was beginning to see that maybe Pauline wasn’t for me.
Pauline didn’t have an education, I think she dropped out in grade 9 or so. I believe I only stayed with her so long out of pity, and that is no way to build a relationship. When we were together, I would often find myself embarrassed to have her around. People would talk to her, and instead of responding, she would giggle as if they said something funny. At first this was cute, but it began to get on my nerves.
It was Amos who helped me make the right decision. “She isn’t right for you Teddy” he said, to my surprise. “You are a nice guy, and a smart person. Pauline has ‘issues’ like her mother.” He said. “You can’t believe anything they say, and I bet if you really listened to what she was saying, you would understand.” he added.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A father warning his daughter’s boyfriend about his daughter. Either he really didn’t like me, or he respected me enough to be honest with me.
“Don’t do like I did, Ted. When I fell in love with Pauline’s mother, my head was in the clouds. My friends warned me that there was something not right with her, but I wouldn’t listen. 25 years later, I see what they were talking about, but now I have two girls, I just can’t leave. Don’t let my regret be your regret.”
Me and Amos stayed friends even after I split up with his daughter. I never seen Pauline again, but I hear stories of how she got mixed up with bad people, had a couple of abortions, and is now living with a much older man who treats her like a slave. I talk to Anne all the time, she agrees with her father, saying I made the right decision to leave her sister when I did.
I hear Amos’ wife passed away a few years back. It was then that Amos began to ‘live’ again. Someone said he had gotten himself a girlfriend. I remember seeing him and some woman at the mall. For once in his life, Amos looked happy.
I pulled my truck over and got out. I went over to greet the old guy. He returned my greeting with a big hug. “Teddy, you look great!”
He didn’t look so great. His face was weathered and craggy, and he shook while he stood in front of me. “Are you doing okay?” I asked. “Doing okay, just old, that’s all.” he said.
We spoke for awhile, mostly about family. He extended his congratulations to me on my recent marriage. He said he seen my wife and I in church and commented on how perfect we were for each other. He talked about his wife, how she spent years in mental hospitals, and how Pauline did as well. He said he was glad my life turned out good, and he was glad I had listened to him way back then. He said the conversation we had back then was one of the most difficult things he ever had to do, but he was glad I took his advice. I am glad as well.
“Gotta keep in shape now!” he said, “that’s why I am out here walking. You know what women are like…”
I shook his hand, laughing. “Take care Amos” I said.
“You too, Son” he said.