A new series with an Introduction to click and read which will hopefully clarify why I am writing about my role models.
I probably should begin with a superstar or a more relatable character, I should also probably have picked someone in my own life who’s name I can recall…alas I have always been a limited edition crayon in the box and have decided to pick The man at the bus stop.
It was around 1998-1999 and I was studying for my A levels, I usually caught a lift with a friend of mine who was on similar courses to me, however as luck would have it there were a couple of occasions when our timetables didn’t synchronise and I would have to get the bus alone. The late nineties were also a time when the walkman was dead, the iPod not yet invented and the mobile phone was a brick…so I usually had on me my CD player for company (for some reason electric devices make us humans feel less alone?), now the CD player for your ‘on the go’ listening needs was, well also crap and you had to hold the player flat so the CD could spin around without skipping. At the bus stop was an old man and he made a joke about my CD player and the fact that it was frustrating me. Raised well, I promptly placed the crap device in my ‘record bag’ (oh the irony) and chatted to him. He explained that he was getting the same bus as me, as on a Thursday he always went to the local day centre. He gets fed for a fiver and basically loves attention from all the ladies. He lived in the elderly peoples home opposite the bus stop and over the coming weeks I would look forward to our chats. At the time I did know his name and he would greet me with “Good morning, I love Lucy” a reference to a black and white American sitcom that I vaguely knew of. We would jump on the bus together and he would chat about what he had been up to and which ‘young’ lady he was hoping to sit next to that day at the day centre. It was during these chats that he would often apologise that he wouldn’t be at the bus stop because of one commitment or another, often it was due to travel – he loved cruises and would come back a week or so later with a tan to die for and tell me about all the ladies he had danced with, the cuisine he had tasted (always better than the food in the retirement home) and the places he had seen. He was a gentleman and a dapper dresser, he was in his late eighties and he taught me a valuable lesson, to never stop living or dancing. In contrast he would also tell me about all the ‘dead’ people that he had left behind in his care home, I wouldn’t always know how to react and he would make me laugh by saying something like ‘don’t worry they will still be asleep in the same chair when I get home”. I promised him that I would keep dancing and its a promise that I will keep until I’m as young as him.
He was also the first man to give me a regret, one that I have been able to let go of as I know he wouldn’t of minded.
The Birthday Bash
He invited me to his 90th birthday party and I didn’t go. I didn’t go because I was seventeen and too cool for my own good, I didn’t go because I thought my friends would think I was weird….I wish I had gone.
A few weeks after his ninetieth birthday he wasn’t at the bus stop. Nor the next week, I knew he wasn’t on a cruise as he would of told me and so I remember vividly speaking to my Mum about it. She advised that I pop into the home and ask if he was ill etc. I knew from our bus jaunts that he was widowed and didn’t have any children / family. I 100% planned to take my Mums advice – seriously if that woman says ‘take a coat’ you know a tsunami is going to hit London, however on the morning that I had planned to ‘pop over’ I noticed his window had altered. The once beige curtains were floral and a vase sat in the centre of the window sill. I didn’t need to ask.
I will always smile when I see a man in freshly polished brogues and I will never forget the wisdom and life he maintained until our last stop together.