An Old Man & Me

News of our pending life changing event filtered through the rounds of friends and family like water through a tightly packed coffee group.

There were complimentary pats on the back, surprised shrieks of joy, and plenty of “it’s about times”. And if I’m not mistaken, a few smiling faces etched with grins that seemed to carry with them the notion that implied, “this ought to fun to see.” In the end, Bec and I were left with a steaming cupful of emotion that vacillated between bitter and sweet, excitement and intrepidation.

Ninety two year old Gunter Kaufmann sensed this better than most. And because of this, his smile was the biggest of them all. It would just take me a while to figure out why.

I’d meet the man on the pretext of attempting to write his life story. But that story would prove immensely overwhelming. More tragic, more uplifting, more inspiring and more daunting than anything I ever could’ve imagined when I first agreed to meet with him.

And yet, despite the sense I was way over my head in my capacity to truly due the man’s story justice, I continued to visit, once, sometimes twice a week after work. Gunter offered me the easy out more than once. If I didn’t think I was up to the task, I didn’t have to waste my time on him, he insisted. To be honest, though, I simply couldn’t help myself.

Some people exude a quiet and infectious calm and Gunter was one of them. Whether he believed me or not, I came to need him as much as he did me and eventually the formalities of straight interview and video sessions gave way to Acey Ducey, a modified version of Backgammon.

It’d be during these games that we’d catch up on each other’s week. My work. Sometimes his aches or pains. And once I told him Bec was pregnant, a countdown to the baby’s arrival date. And then there were his memories.

Gunter had lots of memories. And despite them all, he never let them crush him.IMG_0769

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