Next to the shop where I work, there was an Antiques shop. It was run by its owner, an 88-year-old scottish man named Harry.
Everyday, monday to friday, at around half past nine in the morning, Harry would get off his taxi, wave at whoever was working in my store, regardless if we knew him or not, and go ask Steve from the other shop to help him open his Antiques shop.
With ageless leather-bound editions of Dickens classics and gilded father clocks that haven’t struck the hour in long years, he sat on his mahogany chair, over his persian rugs, and watched the people walk up the Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle. He could have well been another antique himself.
His hair thin as a spider’s web, and just as white, always covered by his woolly beanie, same old navy coat and his faithful cane. His steps were slow but sure enough and his eyes sparkled with memories long gone.
He would come around mid morning and mid afternoon to have a cuppa. And now and again asked us to fetch him milk or soup from the coffee shop across the road. He couldn’t cross with the cars coming so fast, he said, but none of us in the shop minded at all.
He had that “sweet grandpa” aura, together with that child-like innocence that comes with the beginning of senility. Whenever you ran across the road to post his mail or just walked out to give him a hand into his taxi, he would smile with his whole being, not just a regular smile. The smile would shine through his eyes and pores.
He loved talking, as most elders do when they get that random sliver of attention from young people. Some believe that for some reason, being younger makes your time more valuable. I loved listening to Harry. He told me how he had some great grandchildren, how his wife passed away some 20 years ago and how going to the shop and working was all he had, all he wanted. It was what kept him together. He event went as far as admitting, that if he hadn’t worked, he would have died. Without his wife, with nothing to do… he’d have gone crazy.
Today, Harry sat in his mahogany chair as usual, but watched how all his shop was emptied into a massive truck right outside his door. He told us his grandchildren (around 40, 30something, busy people), decided he needed to close the shop and sell his things.
“The feeling is a bit sad” he says, still smiling, as his life is taken from him, piece by piece, bubble wrapped and boxed. At the end of the day, it’s a cold december evening in ever windy Edinburgh, and busy Royal Mile shop assistants, we all stopped our comings and goings and stood at the door, waving at Harry goodbye one last time. We smiled a melancholic smile and went back to our busy lives.
I wonder how his family measured the pros and cons regarding this decision. Rumour has it they made around £1.3m out of his things. He’s always said he doesn’t need the money. I wonder who spared a thought for him.
I know I do. I wonder what will I be doing when I am 88, what will I be clinging to, will I be alive at all. He missed his wife, that I could see when he mentioned her whenever we talked. He said I looked like her a bit, but then again, I think he said that to my chinese colleagues as well.
I really wish someone would still love me and think of me after I’ve been dead 20 years. Morbid much?
He really made me think about many, many things, Harry did. And I never got to say thank you.
This is my thank you, Harry, we were well met.
Blessings and light.