An Encounter…

My wife and I recently went to our local Whole Foods store for our bi-monthly shopping excursion. On the way out of the store just inside the door, I passed a very frail-looking, elderly gentleman who looked to be not a day younger than 90 years old. It appeared that he was speaking with an employee of the store, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. He was wearing a hat that said “SECURITY” on the front (that made me chuckle to myself) and his pants were hiked up well over his stomach. He had a very hunched frame and I thought that he was all of about 5’6” tall, but may have been much bigger and taller in his youth. He was just the most delightful looking gentleman and there was a part of me that wanted to engage him in conversation. I wondered, “Who was he?”…”Did he serve in the military?”…”What was his life like, where had he been and what had he seen?”…”What had his vocation been?” These thoughts all passed through my mind in the split second I walked by him. Our eyes met and I gave him a smile…and, he looked at me as if to say “Hey, kiddo…what’s your problem?” I again chuckled to myself as my wife and I walked out of the store and I thought “what a blessing to have just seen that man and having crossed paths, even if only for that moment”.

We put our groceries in the car and as I started walking the cart back to the front of the store, I heard a commotion. I looked over and saw a man who appeared to be in his 40’s, heavy and about 6’3” tall, yelling at the elderly man I just seen in the store. It looked like he, his wife and the old man were walking to a car. The younger man was calling him “Dad”, but screamed the “F” word expletive at him at the top of his lungs many times as apparently his father had done something that greatly annoyed him. It stopped me in my tracks. My mind and body immediately reverted to being a police officer again, (I’ve been retired almost 12 years) and I stood there glaring at the younger man. I watched from about 20’ away and thought how wonderful it would be to walk over and relieve this guy of his Adams apple so he couldn’t yell at his elderly father anymore. I waited. If he touched the old man, I was willing to get locked up to put this guy in his place. It was then that our eyes met. It’s amazing when a coward has been caught in the act and the bodily posture that results when they’re not sure if they’re going to have to defend themselves. It’s also interesting to watch a spine loses its rigidity as this guy’s tall frame lost about 6 inches. He scurried into the driver’s seat and quickly started the car. I tried to look at the old man in the passenger seat to tell him it was OK…but I don’t know if he saw me. They drove off…

I was quiet on the ride home and couldn’t get the encounter out of my mind. I thought of my Dad who had a major stroke many years ago and whom I delighted in taking care of before he passed. Just before getting home, I mentioned to Randi that the incident was stuck in my head.   And, as she always does, she brought it back into proper focus and said all I could do was pray for them. I had already done that.

After calming down and now sitting here putting this to paper, I want to see them again…all three of them. But, not in the context of what occurred in the Whole Foods parking lot. I wanted to talk to them, but more specifically the son.   I wanted to find out what had occurred to him in his life that brought him to the place of treating his father like that. What could his Dad have possibly done to him that he felt the need to elicit such behavior? I kept thinking that if this was the son’s behavior in public, what was it like in private…was it worse or even physical? I knew that the incident wouldn’t soon leave my memory. I badly want to speak to this son.

From a biblical perspective, we’re called to love, honor and respect our parents. But, I do know that a parent’s abuse of a child can certainly hinder that in many ways. Years of parental abuse can have an incredibly devastating effect on children.

But as a son, it brought me back to how much I loved and still love my father and how I dearly wished he were here so I could tell him that.  And, as a son of my heavenly Father, I know that God loves me too…no matter what the circumstances.  This realization brings me much peace and joy.

I would love to cross paths with this elderly man again.

I just want to tell him that he is loved…no matter what the circumstances.

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