The other day, my wife and I took my grandkids to McDonald’s. This is not the best place to take your grandchildren for lunch, but it is nearly impossible to tell them different. We sat in our normal corner booth, with my wife organizing the chaos while I went up to the counter to get them their favorite “Happy Meals.”

On my way back to the booth, I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting by himself. He had no food or drink in front of him, and for some odd reason he brought a story into my mind.

He was very old or at least he appeared to be. His skin hung from what had been a structured face and was freckled with the type of marks that had nothing to do with cute. He had large dark bags under each eye that were permanently placed there from years of worry and concern about everything he’d once found important.

My grandkids, deeply involved in their “Happy Meals,” played with their “Happy Toys.” My wife was enjoying her iced coffee, making sure neither of them swallowed one of their toys.

Sneaking a peek over the side of the booth, I noticed that the old man wore a blue flannel shirt and bright greenish yellow shorts. I then assumed he wasn’t married because no wife would allow this combination to see the light of day.

Working on my own Quarter Pounder I was shocked to notice that this person seemed to have fallen asleep. His hands were crossed as though he was praying to his God. His head was dipped deep into his chest and I feared he might fall over. Looking down at his hands, I noticed a newspaper. Before he fell asleep, I remember, he never turned the pages. He just used the paper as a pedestal to relax his hands.


After a few moments, he shook his head gingerly in order to make sure he hadn’t hurt his neck and started to stare into his hands that were held by the newspaper. At first I was afraid he would see me observing him, so I looked down. I looked up again and saw that his eyes were opened but he was seeing nothing.

My mind raced into wondering who this man was. Did he once have a loving wife and family? Did he make the mistake of living a bit too long? Was he once a successful man who enjoyed his life and never imagined he would end up in a booth by himself at a McDonald’s? I wonder whether he had any, and, if so, how many children he had and why they weren’t they taking care of him.

Walking out of the restaurant, I wanted to turn around to ask this old man why he wanted to get this old. The answer was quickly answered in my sigh that expressed the reality – no one does.

— Special to the Telegram

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