If you travel our lake front street early on most mornings, you may see two old men between a small building and the street. One is riding a stationary handcycle while the other sits in his chair and participates, not in the riding, but in the conversation—which covers a variety of topics.
Ken is the riding buddy. I am the hand cycler. I knew him before I met him. I liked him then, more now.
Ken and his wife Cheryl were moving here from Rhode Island, and I first met her when she was here to check on the renovations of their new home which is across the street from ours. I saw her checking for mail on a visit, and I introduced myself, and as we chatted she told me that her husband was a cancer survivor and organ recipient.
After our encounter, I kept thinking of the man I had never met. I kept thinking of the man who, like my friend Mike, was a transplant survivor. I kept thinking of a man and his wife who were moving to live near a daughter. I kept thinking of cancer and its horrors. I kept think of an organ transplant. I respected and admired him before I met him because of all that he had done, none of it witnessed by me.
The moving van arrived on a day of rain. The renovated house was becoming a home for the woman I had chatted with and the man I had never met. But one day while driving home I passed a man I thought was he. After parking my car in our driveway, I went to the street to talk with the walker. It was Ken. He stood on the side of our street, and we talked about everything but nothing. It all mattered but was mostly of little significance. Yet what is important is that the man I had admired from a distance was now present.
He walks across our street and sits in his chair as I ride. We talk and in that loose, relaxed chatter and banter is sharing. We have learned each other, and I wonder sometimes if we would have ever met in our previous lives. But I doubt that because we led different lives then, but not now. Now he and I are here, two retired men sharing life lived well.
I knew Ken before I met him, and when he walks across the street to sit with me, we share more and more of this life as it is reflected from our past lives with its scars.
The mystic William Blake wrote, “ The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.” Like the bird and spider of Blake, I have been gifted by the man I knew and admired before I met him. He’s my riding buddy.