Contemplative thoughts that infiltrate the mind.
| Life has many ups and downs which we have no control over. I wish I could say I’ve not seen any of those downs in my time. There are many who have it worse than me. The streets of NYC where I come from were inhabited by the downtrodden. I’m very humbled that my upbringing kept me from becoming captive to the other side of the tracks.
I got to know some of the homeless folks that stood guard over their prime real estate. They were determined to claim that corner of the concrete theirs. I guess not owning much anymore at their present state gave them that permission. Not owning much may be a little naïve because they seemed to troll around with packed shopping carts. I wonder if they had any cart alarms similar to what cars have for protection.
Those carts were mounded with bags filled with who knows what. There was one homeless veteran that I will call Nancy for privacy sake who had such a cart. She would pull that cart around with her dog sitting inside the cart. The rest of the cart was occupied with bags. I came to find out that she was a military veteran.
She had served in the Army and was honorably discharged. One bag carried her uniform. Another bag held her military documents. One bag held her pension checks which she cashed religiously. There was one bag that was very special that she held very dear.
This bag held a torn American flag that she said came from her time in combat. She said she took the flag off of a table that was using it as a table cloth. This bag was her prized possession. Her stoic composure would always get choked up when she talked about that flag. She said she would fight for the flag till the day she died.
I would salute her every day on my way to work. She would stand in the same spot every day. Saluting her gave me great pride and she appreciated the honor. The salute became such a ritual between us that she knew what time I would pass. She would stand at the ready with the flag folded under her arm while she slowly raised her hand to her brow.
I would return the gesture. This was the least I could do to honor her service. Even in her downtrodden state I considered her a hero. She never saw herself in the same light as I did. That was fine with me since I believed she deserved the respect.
This daily method of communication was so simple. The simplicity of the act gave us a bond that many who crossed her path never had. I was honored to give her that token of appreciation. It warms my heart to this day and that has been over twenty-five years ago. I have since moved to another state.
I still think of those days. There is never a moment that I don’t remember walking past her. I don’t know what happened to her. I always wonder if she passed away. She most likely did since she was in her sixties back then. I pray she got the burial she deserved.
I would’ve been there at her funeral raising my hand to my brow. Losing touch with her wasn’t expected. I thought I would always live in NY, but my life had other plans. I will never forget Nancy and our ritual. The bond will always be there.
I will never forget her. There are so many downtrodden in NYC and life has dealt them a hard situation. I wasn’t able to get to know all of them, but Nancy was a special person. She was dealt a different hand yet she had a good soul. May the salute never fade for her.