I was walking down the hill towards the train station. Jack was walking the opposite way, on the other side of the road, hunched over and with a scrunched up piece of white paper in his hand. I didn’t know his name was Jack then.
He called over to me…“is this the way to the train station?”
“No” I replied, and indicated that he needed to turn around and go the same direction as me.
He crossed over to join me and we walked the rest of the way together. Him in his black and white plaid shirt and me in my pink and blue one, we made quite a pair, I’m sure.
He’d been at The RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) to spend the day looking round. Difficult to see the birds at this time of year, he told me, because everything was so green and lush. You’d hear a bird but it was always hidden somewhere in the trees or in the reeds. I knew what he was talking about – I’d worked there for three years as a teenager – but I’d always been more interested in that sexy volunteer than the birds.
As we shared the 15 minute train ride to Lancaster, I learned a little more about Jack, although I still didn’t know his name was Jack then.
Jack’s nearly 80 and he’d taken the train all the way from Wigan and before that a bus from his village. Jack was sharp, I could tell. His eyes were bright and his memory was very much…there. He told me about the village in which he’d spent most of his life and how it had changed over the years.
He told me about a week-long holiday/residential Theology course he’d be on near Grange-Over-Sands and how the standard of teaching had been a little below what he was used to but that the holiday aspect of the trip had more than made up for it.
Jack seemed content. He didn’t talk to me about how life was better “back then” or how the world’s changing for the worse. He didn’t talk to me about difficulties or struggles. He just seemed…happy.
I wished I could have asked more questions but our journey together was short and the questions I wanted to ask seemed a little too personal for someone I’d just met.
As we said goodbye at Lancaster, I finally asked his name. He told me it was Jack and I gave him mine in return.
On my merry way, I thought about how I hope I can be a little like Jack when I grow up. Still adventuring out on my own on trains and buses and into bird reserves. Still expanding my mind and meeting new people on holidays and courses I want to attend. Still seeing the good in the now and not looking back with rose tinted glasses and…
A twinkle in my eye and an understanding that “too late” is a state of mind and not one you have to choose.
Love and courage,