Empty red chair sitting in a field of grassI never thought about the old man until I’d see him on my way home. If the weather was good, he’d be there, sitting on his porch at the intersection of Lake Brandt and Lawndale where an endless line of cars made left turns in front of his house. He always waved. Not only to me, but at everyone making a left there. It wasn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill wave either. No. His wave had gusto. He’d perfected his own unique brand, perhaps from years of waving from that porch. As cars crossed left before him, both hands would shoot out, palms facing the road, fingers pointed toward the sky. All four fingers on each hand would snap down twice then open back up like a magician showing you he has nothing up his sleeves. A big smile always punctuated the double wave.

The drivers and passengers in the cars, including me, always waved back. You couldn’t help it. Something in his wave made you smile, made you feel good, a great cap to the end of your work day. My boys loved seeing him if they happened to be with me. They always turned in their seats to continue waving at the old man even after we’d passed. After the boys grew older and begin to lose interest in some of the simpler things of youth, they still loved to see the old man on his porch, and they always waved back.

Then one day, I made that left and the porch was empty. At first, I thought the weather had turned too cold and we’d have to wait until next spring to see him. Spring came and he wasn’t there. Spring turned to summer and the porch still sat empty. Once I finally realized the inevitable, a quiet sadness seeped in. I’d never met the old man, didn’t know his name. But he’d meant something to me, and probably to hundreds of others. Several years have passed now, but I can’t help looking at his front porch every time I pass it, hoping. I’m sure I’m not the only one who misses the guy.

 

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