What If

I recently come across a picture on social media that someone had snapped of an elderly gentleman standing in line at what appears to be a hardware store. This fellow had on a rather odd homemade-looking hat and a pair of rubber boots. He also wore a face mask. This photo was taken solely because of this gentleman’s appearance and posted in a “joking” manner. The post then received many responses, all laughing and making jokes about his choice of clothing and, of course, his face mask. This gentleman has zero knowledge of the whole post, or even that his picture was taken for that matter.
Here’s the thing – not one of the dozens of people poking fun at this gentleman knows anything about him, his life, or his circumstances that lead up to this moment. Instead of ridicule, I tried to imagine some possibilities of how his life’s voyage may have lead to this point: I thought about the “what ifs”.
What if his wife of 60 years has just undergone cancer treatment and is in bed recovering at home and if she catches so much as cold right now it could kill her. This gentleman may not scientifically know if the mask will help but it certainly can’t hurt and he’s damn sure going to do everything he can to protect his sick wife. Perhaps he had slipped on his comfy old rubber boots simply because they were easy to put on. Maybe he fondly thinks back to his favourite dress shoes and how hard they were for his old work hardened bones to get on and tie up. What if the last time he wore those dress shoes was to his best friends funeral last year. That was before his wife and taken ill, and at that time she had knelt in front of him, lovingly cinching the laces that his arthritic hands were no longer capable of tightening. What if the memory had reminded him that he needed to find some kind of slip on shoes to wear, but he hadnt gotten around to it. He hated shopping for shoes. For now, his boots would do.
And how about that hat? That floppy, oddly shapen hat. Maybe it was sewn by the man’s granddaughter, and he thinks she had done a fine job for an 8 year old. He remembers how she told him that the hat “makes you so pretty grampa!”. His son and daughter inlaw had seperated shortly after she made the hat, and they had moved away. He hadn’t seen his granddaughter in person for two years now, but he still liked to wear the hat – he misses her so much. And now here he is, standing in line waiting for help with a mounting bracket for the TV. He needs it to swivel so his wife can watch her favourite show from whichever side of the bed she is on while she recovers. Right now thier favourite program is a reality baking competition. His wife is a fantastic baker and her cookies and cakes are delicious. He hopes that one day she is able to stand long enough to bake him a fresh batch again. Until then he will just wait patiently in line, minding his own business – while you laugh at his clothing.
I bet he doesn’t give a shit what you think.

2 thoughts on “What If

  1. This made me cry. Well-said, Marty. It reminds me a little of those “people of Walmart” posts that circulated some years ago. They also made me sad, too, that people can be so cruel. I like to think, though, that there are more of us that aren’t like that. Also, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

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  2. I love your what ifs in this story! I’m also sure the man didn’t give a s@#t about what people thought about him. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone thought the same way? Social media would probably not be a thing, nobody would feel the need for attention. Love reading your stories!

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