The Old Man’s Chair

The small town I live in boasts a population of one thousand and two citizens. Make that one thousand and three with the birth of Lisa Clement’s baby last week. Our oldest resident was Bud, the only name I ever knew him by, and he was old when I was a kid.

He always tussled my hair when we passed each other in town, and as I grew to adulthood we would visit while standing in line at the local grocer or the gas pumps. We mostly talked about the weather, how the family was doing, and his hobby. Bud loved to grow things, beautiful plants, and flowers. He often bragged, “I can stick a leaf in the dirt, and it will be a bush by the end of the week.”

I believed him. Over the years, I grew to love the old man and aspired to be a better man just for knowing him.

Each encounter would show how feeble Bud was getting, how time was ravaging his body. Once when I didn’t see him for a week, I went to his house to check on him. Found him out back in a greenhouse, sitting in a plastic lawn chair, painted pristine white to cover the wear and tear. Plants of all varieties surrounded him as he looked at the view of the mountains through the glass.

He’d been sick, so I went to the store and bought him enough groceries to last him a while.

Bud died last year.

I missed the old man terribly. I thought about him and grieved for him to the point I would go to his favorite spot and sit for hours in his favorite chair surrounded by the plants he worshiped. I hate to admit, even to myself, that a man I barely knew would impact my life in such a way.

Driving home from work last night, I thought about Bud and his favorite spot. I swung off the highway and took the road to his place. It already had that abandoned look, slanting porch, grass growing wild, broken windows.

I pushed through the waist-high growth of untended yard around to the back of the house. The greenhouse stood firm, for the most part. Some of the glass was broken and the plants had gone rogue.

In the center of all the wildness, sat the old man’s chair. No longer pristine, the legs engulfed by the green leaves of rebirth, and a bird had taken up residence at some point with a nest inside a potted plant nearby. My heart lifted, and the pain of grief eased at the sight.

I felt Bud’s presence. Heard his voice in my head, “It’s okay Brian. I’m with my beloved plants.”

As I lay in my bed, staring at the darkness I realized my heart didn’t ache with the loss of a man I barely knew anymore. My whole body relaxed, and the stale air left my lungs. I closed my eyes, feeling content for the first time in a long time.

Thank you, Bud. I’ll always remember you.