I rushed into the grocery store and nearly missed you standing there, proud and straight, your skin weathered with the years. I stopped and watched you from the side for a moment. Smiling so kindly to everyone as you clutched a fistful of red paper poppies. I saw you had one to a tiny little girl and knew that you knew that she had no idea why it was red poppies today... Veterans Day. I wondered how many had rushed by you as you stood, so patiently, trying to gather funds for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.... trying to get the rest of us to remember that we're grateful that we haven't seen what you have seen. Your military hat noted that you'd served as a Chaplain in the Army and I wondered what you'd helped others endure as part of your efforts to serve - your country and your fellow soldiers.
I pushed some money into your bucket. Then I stepped over to you and tried to shake your hand. Your skin looked as delicate as wet Kleenex and I was afraid to touch you. I noted that your hands were gnarled and twisted with arthritis and I wondered if just existing was painful for your fingers.
I grasped the side of your palm and gently squeezed.
"Thank you for your service," I said.
You met my gaze with your milky-blue eyes that have seen so much and said, "I did it for you - and I was happy to do it."
I hurried away because of the tears, but somehow I don't think you'd have minded.
Thank you, sir, for the reminder of what you and so many other brave men and women have done.
And for my son.