My husband takes our trash to the Convenience Center on Harrison Road on one of the weekend days. Today I go with him because he promises me he will take me out for breakfast afterwards. As we pull up to the recycling area to unload plastics, glass, cardboard boxes and such, Dave waves at the gentleman in the little enclosed glass booth. The man waves back and bounds out of the booth to greet Dave like an old friend. Dave notices my quizzical expression, and by way of explanation, leans in and says, “I’ve been talking to this guy every week for the last year.”
The two men make small talk as Dave tosses empty cartons and glass jars into the bin. The man is between 75 and 80 years old, I would say. He has only two front teeth left, and I know this because his smile is hearty and genuine. I wind down the window of the van and join in the conversation. “Happy Memorial Day,” I shout. And the man grins again. I joke about my husband’s promise to take me out for breakfast, and the man tells Dave I should have the weekend off from cooking. I love him already!
As we talk of plans for the holiday weekend, Dave asks the man if he is a veteran. He nods his head Yes, and tells of his deployment to Vietnam in the 82nd airborne, 1967-68.
We pull away and Dave tells me, “I’ve been talking to this man every week and never knew he was a vet.” It is clear to me that my husband looks to the man as a hero, and so do I.
Driving away, I am struck by two thoughts. 1) My husband is friendly and kind to everyone. And I love this about him, and 2) I am concerned for this man who works at the recycling station and served our country and now has only two teeth and a noticeable limp. Do we provide adequate health care for our veterans, for those who sacrificed so much for us?
These everyday exchanges are often all that matters.