One day he just stopped coming to that swing along the lake. He was
an older gentleman in a worn cardigan sweater, and a soft button
down cap. Ernest was his name. “But please call me Ernie”, he would say,
in a warm baritone voice. “My momma, bless her soul, was the only one
who called me Ernest”. Gray dress pants, dress shirt, and black highly polished
shoes, rounded out his usual attire.
Ernie’s face was brown from the sun and dotted with age spots, as is common for
someone his age. The backs of his hands were also brown, but withered and bruised
from the thinning of his skin. His hair was gray and receding, but always nicely
trimmed, and he was always clean shaven and smelled of “Old Spice.”
I would see Ernie there on that swing every morning on my walks along the lake.
He never missed a day, and was always glad to let me share his swing for a spell.
He spoke lovingly of his now departed “Lorraine”, his wife of 40-some years, his children,
spread out all over the country, his eight grandchildren, and new great grandchild,
whose names he would often forget.
Ernie would marvel at my cell phone and recall making phone calls through the operator
in his little home town in Minnesota. He would tell stories of growing up in the depression
and getting ice from the ice truck for their “new” Frigidaire, or listening to a baseball game
with his dad on the radio. He told me of the war and friends he had lost. He never spoke
of his time in the war, other than the grand victory celebration in Paris. “Lorraine didn’t know
the half of that party”, he would whisper shyly.
I don’t stop at that swing by the lake anymore. It’s not the same without him. I don’t know
how he got there or even where he lived. He never told me he was sick or ever had a complaint.
I wish I could have told him how much I appreciated him and enjoyed our time together.
Good bye Ernie and thanks.