Old Buildings, New Buildings and the Cancer At the End Of Life.

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Old buildings, new buildings, old times, new times, last generation, next generation.
We’re all just little bricks in the cycle of life and we can build all the highrises and hotels we want and generate all the money in the world, but in the end all of us are going to be put in the ground, spread out in a field or poured out from an urn on a mountain top or an ocean, whatever our preference may be.

Here’s a short story about Ed, on seeing life near it’s end;

Don’t let em get you, David, don’t ever give up you’re a good man and in this god damn world we need more good people. Doesn’t always pay that well but you can sleep well at night, right?
Well, I’m gonna take off now sir, see you when I see you. Take care.

Ed is a Vietnam veteran and he’s tired, just moving out from his house where his much younger wife who sleeps all day and stays up all night taking drugs and surfing the internet is staying.
He’s a customer at the store where I work and he comes in now and then just to chat and pass the time, I suppose.
 I’m not sure why he has taken a liking in me, maybe it’s because I take a few minutes of my time to just listen to him.
And he tells me stories from his life and how he signed up to go to the war in Vietnam and Man, we were just kids David – I was 17, can you believe it? Seventeen! What the hell did I have to do with that war, I didn’t even know where the hell Vietnam was.
He never goes into detail about the war, it’s like he hits a wall and he just stops talking, staring into the air and then he sinks down on a side table pushed up against a wall and he tells me his brother, who was also in Vietnam has got cancer and he’s not gonna make it, Dave…doctor’s given him a month.
When did he find out?
Last week. It’s that shit they sprayed on us, man, that Agent Orange…a lot of guys I knew have died from that stuff. All cancer, all of em. And nobody ever said anything and we were like the plague when we came home, Dave, people were spitting at us and we had no idea, we just did what they told us and they just pretended it never happened. The first one to acknowledge us was Obama. That’s why I voted for him David, he was the first one to apologize and it was a weight lifted from me, man.

He gets up and heads for the register. He’s buying a clock to hang in the kitchen. It’s seven dollars and it plugs into the wall. It looks like it came from somebody’s garage, faded blue / grey with some brown stuff on the edges and in the little cracks in the plastic. He walks off and the next time I see him, a couple of months later, his brother is dead and Ed has been diagnosed with cancer. He stands leaning against his car in the parking lot and he shrugs when I ask how he’s feeling.
What can I say, Dave, it was just a matter of time before I got it too.
He keeps the engine running, cos if he turns it off, it might not start again. The sun shines from a clear blue Texas sky and he’s got a baseball cap on his head, his face framed by those thick black glasses he always wear. The car cough and purr and he lifts his cap and says Thank you sir for listening, now I’ll be on my way and he smiles his peculiar smile, as if he knows something the rest of us don’t.
Don’t let em get you Dave, stay strong!

As he rolls out on Burnet Road, I wonder when I will see him again. I take a deep breath and think about the wonder of life and I close the loading dock door and go back to work.

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About David Fridlund

Born in Sweden 1974. Moved to Austin TX in 2009 w my wife.
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