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The old man wandered aimlessly along a path in the park, gazing sadly at the snow surrounding him. He hated the snow, it was cold, wet – a nuisance that brought him no joy and reminded him only of the one he had lost. She had been gone for nearly ten years now and the hole in his heart had never healed, he still woke up in the mornings hoping she would be there, but she never was. She had loved the snow, always laughing as they had snow ball fights and built snowmen with the children, but now she was gone forever and the children were all grown up. They would soon have babies of their own, and while the man was happy for them, he still wished that he could go back to when she was still alive.
He sighed as he wandered through the park, remembering all moments they’d shared and wishing it could bring her back, but in the real world, wishing does nothing. You can wish for a million dollars, but it won’t be there two seconds later; I can wish for a better life, but wishing won’t make it happen; and the old man could wish for his wife to be alive, but wishing won’t make it come true. So, with this in mind, the old man meandered along, reveling in his loneliness. He knew what the children said, that he was a crazy, mean old man without an ounce of caring in his bones, and he knew that the neighbors pitied him for his loss, but thought he should be over it by now. It had been ten years after all, and she hadn’t been young when she died. They just didn’t understand, how losing the person who understood you at all times, who made everything better, who was your sole purpose for existing, could destroy your desire to live. He only kept going because he knew Carol would never forgive him for giving up and leaving his children like that. No, she would want him to go down fighting till the end, and so he would.
A little girl ran past, her curly red hair flying as her hat flew off without her noticing; she was too busy playing in the snow with her family and friends. The man picked up the hat, and called to the girl that she had dropped her hat. Her friends gave him a weird look, as if it was improper to be polite at his age, but the girl bounded forward with a grin and grabbed the hat. “Thank you,” she said in a sweet voice before running back to face the bombardment of questions from her friends.
“You’re welcome,” he whispered, but she had already dashed off by then. He sat down on a bench despite the snow and watched the children build forts before starting a snowball fight. During the battle though, the little girl looked up to see him sitting alone and ran over without a moment’s hesitation. She sat down next to him, swinging her short legs that didn’t reach the ground. The old man said nothing, too wrapped up in his thoughts to really notice her.
“Why are you sitting all alone?” she asked suddenly.
“Because the person I used to walk with died a long time ago,” he answered without even really thinking about it.
“Oh. Then why don’t you walk with someone else? That way you can remember her, but won’t be so lonely.”
The man laughed at her response and said, “Because everyone I know believes it is too cold to go outside on a day like this and I don’t blame them.”
“But it’s snowing!” the girl protested. “Why would they stay inside when they can play in the snow and then go inside and drink hot chocolate?”
“Because as you get older, the snow becomes less fun and more unpleasant, and you will learn far too quickly what I mean. My friends and I are all too old to play in the snow and so most of us just stay inside and watch it come down, wishing it would go away and leave our old bones alone,” he told her, not sure why she was talking to him or why he was being so honest.
“That’s silly. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the things you did when you were little. I’ve had my teddy bear since I was born and I still won’t go to sleep without him. It’s not that I can’t, I just don’t want to. It’s probably like that with you and your friends; old people can still enjoy the snow even with bad joints, they just choose not to and are negative all the time.” The fact that she said all this with complete confidence astounded him, and puzzled him exceedingly. How could one little girl be so sure about anything?
“How old are you?” he asked her.
“Six and three-quarters. I’ll be seven in a few months. How old are you?”
“I’ll be ninety-two in two months,” he replied.
“Wow, you are old. You’re almost as old as my great-grandma Millie. She’s turning ninety-five soon. But she still likes to go walking in the snow and even helps us build snowmen some days. So why don’t you like the snow?”
“Well, the real reason is that my wife and I always played in the snow, even after our children had grown up and moved out. But now that she’s gone, I just don’t have the desire to anymore. I remember all the fun times we shared and it’s just too lonely to enjoy the snow by myself.”
“Then you can play in the snow with me and my great-grandma when she comes to visit! Her husband died too, so she knows how you feel. But even though your wife is gone, you can still enjoy the snow. She wouldn’t want you to sit around all day and mope because it hurts so much. I didn’t do that when my dog died, and neither should you.” By this time, most of the kids were making a snowman, but he could tell they were listening to the conversation. Oddly enough, it didn’t bother him the way it used to; even the fact that a few were staring at him and the girl didn’t faze him.
He smiled at what she had said. “You are very wise for someone who is only six and three-quarters years-old. Do you know that?”
“My mommy tells me that often. She says I get it from my grandfather,” the girl said with a smile and looked up as her parents walked by.
“Come on, honey, it’s time to go home. We have to get supper started,” her mother said.
“Ok,” she said as she hopped down from the bench.
“Who’s your friend?” her father asked.
“Frank, Frank Greystone,” he answered when the girl hesitated.
“Nice to meet you Frank, I hope Amelia wasn’t bothering you. She tends to be a little too inquisitive with elderly people. Their stories always fascinate her,” the father responded.
“Not at all. It was a very enjoyable conversation. I’m glad she came over to say hello.”
“Well that’s good. We’ll be in the park often if you ever want to talk to her again. Maybe you could come over and talk to Amelia’s great-grandmother. She always enjoys meeting new people from the same generation as her,” Amelia’s mother suggested with a smile as her daughter clung to her knee.
“That’s sounds like a fine idea, if it’s not too much trouble. I’d hate to make you feel obligated in any way,” Frank answered.
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all. We loved having company over. A full house is a happy house, as my father used to say,” she told him.
Frank chuckled. “That sounds about right, my house was usually full to bursting with people always coming and going and now it’s rather empty since my children grew up.”
“Well feel free to stop by, I think we live around the block. We’ll talk more when we see you here next, but we better get going. Good-bye,” the father added in as they turned to leave, but Amelia jumped up and gave Frank a hug and a kiss on the cheek before leaving.
“Good-bye, Frank!” she called as they left.
“Good-bye, Amelia” he replied. Frank watched them leave before getting up and finishing his walk, all the while thinking that maybe there was something left for him to do with his life after all. And maybe, just maybe, the snow wasn’t as bad as he thought it might have been. Frank laughed as he looked toward the sea of clouds separated with patches of pale blue sky. Carol had been right, even though she and his children were gone, there was no reason to stop living just yet.