January 29, 2009

A Moment in Time

This afternoon I took the transbay bus home from San Francisco to Alameda. Usually I'm traveling in the late evening with commuters. As it was still daylight and the middle of the work day my fellow passengers were a different sort of lot.

Whilst waiting for the bus I noticed a dapper elderly man at the front of the line. Next to him was a rickety old bike and I just assumed it was his. However when the bus arrived he left the bike behind. I found a seat near to his and said that I thought that that was his bike. He was quite amused. "I've not been on a bike in over 60 years." That was the opening to a ride-long conversation, mostly one-sided. He proceeded to tell me the story of his career in the military, women he met in his travels and a particular event that had clearly impacted his independence. Over and over he told me how his son had invited him to come to Alameda for two weeks to visit. To the man's surprise his son packed up his father's belongings and moved them from LA to storage in Oakland. That was seven years ago.

It was clear that that was a pivotal moment in this man's life. Perhaps his loss of independence? He wasn't angry about it but rather a bit stunned that it had happened. "He wouldn't tell me why the truck was there. He put all my things in storage. He sold my car. I need to get a new one so that I can get back down there. I should just fly down and not tell him. He doesn't know I went in to San Francisco today."

Fascinating and heartbreaking how we can be so impacted by an event like this. It becomes our reference point moving forward. I didn't ask him any questions or try to rationalize that he was probably in a better place up here with his family. It was the story he needed to tell and perhaps just sharing it would be enough for him to move on.