An Old Man’s Musings

An Old Man’s Musings

By Alexsi Currier


Grandparent Bench

I was that old gringo geezer on the Malecon bench gazing out over the lake with the cell phone lying in my cupped hands. I couldn’t remember how to use the phone. I was in a grumpy mood. I wanted to ask you to help me but you looked too young. I was afraid you would give me a lingo like the Tel-Mex girl, assuring me it was simple, (Lord how I hate that word!) and all I had to do was to tap here, click there, scroll down and blah, blah, blah. You passed and I mumbled after you in self defense: “I can drive stick shift and I can write cursive.”

I immediately felt childish and ashamed. You see, I’m 85 now. I am well aware that fissures are appearing in the foundation of my knowledge and facts are leaking out. Compulsive order is essential for me to stay on track. My learning curve has flattened. On the mountain of life I am now well above the timberline. I may have a magnificent view of the wider world, but on the level of the everyday life around me, everything seems to be growing stranger and less intelligible.  Even my body no longer does what I ask it to do. When I was recently invited to climb up to the chapel, I answered with an emphatic “No!”  I immediately smiled and remembered that when we used to invite our old German grandmother to join us on such an outing or adventure, she would often respond with a laugh and reply: Nein, das Zug is schon gefahren,” or “No, that train has left the station.”

That German phrase brought a smile to my heavy heart. Old age and Ajijic faded out and I floated back into the pre-teen years of my childhood.  Every now and then when I was little, Mom and Dad would motor down to Parker, South Dakota, to visit in the small town that was still home to my maternal grandparents. There my country cousins would run me all over the dozen or so blocks of the town trying to convince me that Parker was bigger than Minneapolis.

But for me the highlight of the day was the arrival and departure of “the train.” In the late morning when I heard the whistle, I would drop everything and race through town on my spindly little legs to watch that wonderful massive belching monster slide up alongside of the station, and with a screaming screech, stop. For the next few minutes I’d run back and forth checking out the things being unloaded and loaded as well as the travelers getting off and getting on. 

Then the most dramatic moment of all approached. With an ear splitting blast from the whistle the mighty engine would thunder a chug, followed by another, followed by a third, fourth, fifth and so on as the mighty monster beside me began to move along the platform and out onto the prairie. Again I would walk, and then trot, and start to run alongside. With a leap I’d jump off the platform and start to run through the weeds beside the track.  Soon the passenger cars would be rolling past me and then the whole train would slide by my racing wee legs and huffing and puffing, I would slow down and finally stop, still panting hard, and watch the train slowly grow smaller and smaller as it disappeared down the track toward Marion, South Dakota somewhere out there, just beyond the distant prairie horizon.

And that my dear ones, is how I now feel: alone, lost among the weeds, realizing simply that the train has left the station.


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