July 23, 2009
The old man sits at the window looking out as the rain traces patterns as the drops glide across the pane. This has become his world.
Once he inhabited the land beyond the glass but time and infirmity now confine him to a small apartment. Far removed from what once was a full and active life, he sits alone most days with his memories and the slice of the outside world framed by the window.
He listens to the raindrops against his window and remembers the rain hitting his helmet as he huddled in a shallow foxhole just south of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in 1942. He was cold, wet and afraid but unlike many of his friends managed to survive.
It was also raining the night his son was born but that was a joyous rain. He stood looking up and smiling with the drops splashing on his face as he whispered a brief prayer of thanks.
Today the kids were not in the schoolyard across the street. He liked to watch them having fun. Occasionally one would wave to the face in the window and he would wave back. It seemed so long ago that he played stickball in another schoolyard not far away.
In the morning he watches his neighbors hurry to the bus stop at the corner on their way to work. He had been a firefighter and thought of the many happy hours he spent with his buddies at the firehouse. The comradeship was like what he experienced in the Marines.
He missed the guys, the good-natured banter and the excitement when responding to a call. Some of them came by occasionally to make sure he was alright. They would have a beer and reminisce about old times.
A car door slammed interrupting his reverie. Looking out he saw his daughter walking up the stairs carrying a bag of groceries. She was his lifeline since his wife died. She asked him to move in with her family but the old man declined believing he would be a disruptive presence in her already full household.
Instead he would stay by his window tracking the activities below as the days slipped by moving him ever closer to the day when the shade would be drawn on this last piece of his world.
For the old man it was not just a window. The sights he saw and the sounds he heard carried memories that sent him drifting into happier times. A bird, a flower, a motherâ€™s call, a dog barking, the snow all served to transport him to another place, another time.
That face at the window is looking out but the thoughts behind the face are elsewhere.
There are countless faces at windows; mostly old and wrinkled. They are the faces of those on the last pages of life. Donâ€™t dismiss them. They were once like you and one day you will be like them.
They are not to be pitied for once they experienced the joy and sadness, triumphs and frustrations, grit and grandeur of life. They loved and were loved. As you look at the window, think of it as a picture frame; a portrait of the person looking out.
The old manâ€™s face has strength and character. Not only is he reminiscing but he is waiting, hoping and praying for fulfillment; the day, when as his mother used to say, the window will open and his spirit will soar.
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org