Sometimes we forget what we must always remember.
The old man clung to the plastic bags in his lap as his power chair quietly rolled on the bumpy sidewalk. He was on his way home from the supermarket and needed to get the refrigerated items stored before they warmed up. Waiting at home for him was his adorable cat, Pookie. She loved her daddy and defied the common belief cats are independent. Not Pookie. She was always happy to see the old man and had no qualms about showing her love for him.
So sad, he was. He was all alone, save for Pookie. "Just waiting for the Grim Reaper to ring the doorbell," he would tell some folks. His parents died more than ten years ago, and his two brothers, who lived more than 500 miles away, had nothing to do with him. He was married once, but it wasn't obvious his wife was a hateful woman until the honeymoon was over. Eight years of misery passed before the old man just couldn't take it anymore and left. Leaving was both easy—and difficult. They had no children, so that made it easy. Going back on his own was the hard part.
He was medically discharged many years ago. During the war, he was wounded in his left hip by a mortar shell and was left with a limp that could not be corrected. Over the years, pain developed in his hip that got progressively worse. The VA refused to give him any strong pain medication for fear he would become addicted, and eventually the pain got so bad he could hardly walk. Hence, the power chair was given to him by the VA. He wasn't paralyzed, but he couldn't walk much anymore unassisted.
When he left his marriage, he was already suffering debilitating pain and it was negatively affecting his quality of life, yet he'd rather deal with the pain than continue to live with a miserable woman. Going back on his own in his condition was the hard part.
When he reached his apartment, he stopped his chair and strained to stand up. He put the grocery bags on the seat and noticed that a single rose with a note attached hung from the door. The note simply stated: “Please come to apartment 108. I need your help."
"Hmm. What could it be?" he wondered. “Well, first I have to get these groceries in the fridge,” he whispered. After unlocking and opening his door, there was Pookie eagerly greeting him. “Hi, girl! Okay. Daddy’s home. Now, back away so I can bring my chair in.” As if she understood every word, Pookie turned and moved away from the door. The old man put the bags back in his lap and drove his chair into the living room. He was sure Pookie wouldn’t run out to the street, but just to make sure he hurried to close the door. Pookie was never an outdoor cat. Ever since she was just 3-months-old she lived indoors with her “daddy”, as the old man liked to call himself.
After storing the food, he said, “Been a darn long time since anyone’s given me a flower. I hope I can make it last for a while.” Grabbing his cane, he limped to apartment 108 and rang the doorbell. It wasn’t long before a pretty young brunette named Diana opened the door.
“Hello, Mr. Benito! I guess you got my note.”
“Yes, I did. The rose was such a nice gesture. Thank you!”
“Please, come in,” she beckoned him. He shyly complied. He was surprised to find a group of young people smiling at him as he entered. One young man in front of the group offered his hand.
“Mr. Benito, it is my pleasure to meet you.” The old man shook hands with the greeter. “We all wanted to take an opportunity this Valentine’s Day to thank you for your service to our country and apologize for not doing so sooner. We are grateful for the freedoms you and other men and women protected with your patriotic service.”
Diana used her index finger to wipe away a tear from the old man’s cheek.
Word Count: 694