Summer was starting to settle into a predictable rhythm with cool mornings, heat rolling in for mid-afternoon followed by sometime thunderstorms and finally clear evenings as the rain moved on and the sun went down. The livin’ was easy.
They were at the coffee shop which had also settled into a summer rhythm. Sometimes he stopped in as it opened on his way to work and sometimes it was to grab coffee on the way home.
He said, ” I had two separate and totally unrelated conversations over the weekend but they fit together in a way that makes me think they are part of a greater plan.”
They were out on the patio. They had escaped the air conditioned ” comfort” of the shop to enjoy the shade and warm breezes that the afternoon had to offer. Jeez, it was summer, didn’t we wait all year long just for the chance to sit outside ?
” Well, I think everything is part of a greater plan,” she said, ” We probably miss most of the clues and hints that are presented to us because we are either too busy or too stubborn to see them. So, whaddya got?”
He gazed at nowhere in particular trying to figure out where to begin. ” Okay, here goes.”
“On Friday I was working with a large group of people who are younger than me and I mean decades younger. They are all very good at what they do and they know it. I miss those heady days that brimmed with loads of self-confidence when you just knew you had the world by the you-know-whats as opposed to the day when you finally realized that it’s the other way around.”
She asked ” Is this going to be a depressing revelation about aging?”
“Well, maybe yes and maybe no. I suppose we can label it whatever we want when we get to the end of the story but for now let’s say no,” he said smiling.
” Go on.”
He took a thoughtful sip and continued.
” So, these kids are all over the digital world in their work and in their play. There seems to be no dividing line for them anymore anyway. And me, I’m the guy who is tasked with keeping things running on time which means I have to talk to people, figure who needs to do what next and make a plan. Your phone can’t do that.”
” Oh, so this is an anti-technology rant,” she said.
“No, not at all. Wait till I get to the second event and it all makes sense.”
He went on.
“On Saturday I happened to be chatting with a fellow who coaches over at the college. We were talking about retirement, what it means, who gets to retire but most importantly when it’s time to get out. You know, hang up the spikes.”
“So, this coach tells me a story about another coach he knew who had coached Olympic athletes, gold medal winners where the difference between first and second place in a sprint is thousandths of a second.”
” One day the older coach decides to retire, he’s done and the younger coach asks how did he know it was time?’
He looked away for a second. This was the moment that tied Friday and Saturday together into something else.
” The older coach said he knew it was time because he had nothing to offer anymore. He couldn’t process what he was seeing into coaching advice. He couldn’t keep up. By this point he was in his 80’s so he knew himself pretty well.”
“Okay, so what’s the payoff?” she asked.
” The payoff is that the only thing the older coach had left to offer was stories. That’s all and he knew – it was time to go.”
She smiled. ” And all you have to offer your Friday kids is stories?”
“Yeah, something like that.” He smiled . “But there’s one more piece to this puzzle.”
” For some reason I woke up this morning with a line from a Simon and Garfunkel song in my head. The song is Old Friends and the line is ” How terribly strange to be seventy.”
He was happy and sad as he went on, ” In 1968 when I first heard that tune, I was a punk kid and that line seemed full of woe. I mean old people- who cared? I got the whole world by the you know what’s and my life is spread out in front of me like I’m looking over the vista at the Grand Canyon. I can see for miles, to quote another song.”
” Seventy might as well been a hundred and seventy years in the future, a million and seventy, I had no reference points and Art Garfunkel is 75 years old.”
” You know,” she said, “If you are planning to put this on paper you’ll need a neat way to wrap it up so your reader walks away contented.”
” I can’t, maybe in time it makes a nice little package but right now it’s just a collision of a couple of instances and facts that are still spinning around. Overall I am pretty pleased with how this all lays out. A happy accident, not all accidents are tragic.”
She was tempted but did not check her phone. “Am I going to be in this story too?”
” Always, you’re the glue that crosses the line between fiction and non-fiction for me when I write.”
” Like a character in a play? Breaking the fourth wall in theatre except on paper? Can you do that?”
He laughed, ” I think we just did.”
He had another thought to add, something someone told him years and years ago and it stuck because he knew it was true and he knew that some day he would have to act on it’s wisdom.
” One more thing,” he said. Their cups were empty and so it seemed like a natural time to wrap up and go their separate ways.
” A friend once told me, Prepare a graceful exit before they ask you to leave.”
Dark afternoon rain clouds were gathering off to the west so it was almost time for the daily dousing.
” Can you give me a lift home?, I forgot my umbrella.”
She asked,” What are you going to use for the title to this story?”
” I’m open to suggestions.”