“What did you say? How old I’m? Ask not how old I’m, ask how young I’m. Sixty and nine my friend, going to be seventy years young soon.” He said that with a hearty smile and leaned forward to pat my palm.
That confident statement and the smiling weather beaten face of the man from Down Under charmed my spirits. By the time he bade goodbye and left, I could feel life and charged air particles infused with positive spirit around me. He may be leaving behind whiff of positive air wherever he would go. He will pass it on to all who may notice it! I remember someone had said that a positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. It annoyed me too, that I felt it contagious. And was pleasant!
The restaurant was immaculately clean and well lit. The gentle soothing cool breeze from the ocean blowing through the ventilated windows smelt the freshness of the ocean. It was a few minutes after sundown and the splash of harmony of colours painted the horizon far across were the sea seemed to end. The curtains were milky white with satin sashes and they swayed gently inviting the breeze as it caressed them on its way into the restaurant.
I sat at the table little away from the window and sipped the semi dry Martini on ice. I looked around the sparsely full place. Though being week end it was a trifle early for the regular revelers to enter. There was a lone table little to my right closer to the window. A black satin table cloth was laid neatly covering the table top. A chair stood by it and a solitary candle was flickering on a silver candle stand. A white flower that looked like rose was placed near the candle stand. A beer mug was on the table, mouth down along with a crystal ash tray and an unlit cigar.
“If you might be wondering about that”, he said, “it is for the old bloke who passed away same day the previous year.” The voice came from the bar counter and I turned to see a man who looked to be in his sixties wave at me and smile. He walked up to me with a glass of beer and pulled a chair and sat down at my table. He continued, “the young fellow was a regular and faithful client here and would come by seven in the evening and hang on with a few mugs of beer and his cigars till about ten .He was the most gregarious bloke evolution could bring about ha, ha.” He continued,” the Restaurant can feel his presence but yet miss him much. So do many of us.”
I nodded in understanding and asked, “Did he die young? I suppose you said he was a young fellow.”
“Ha, he was younger than I’m when he went away in his sleep. He was only eighty eight.” He said with a glint in his eyes.
I let out a small whine of astonishment. “By the way may I ask how old are you?” And he gave me perfect retort that amazed me and brought forth a kind of respect for the gentleman. Exasperatingly, don’t I often mourn and fret about getting old? And here were some strange examples.
“Did he live alone? I mean his children and his folks?” I asked enquiringly. The gentleman then told me the short story of the man from Australia, who left home and settled in this pristine island. Lived all alone in a cottage by the sea for thirty and five years, went fishing on his skiff, chatted with his friends at the pub on evenings and went home gay and happy, read books and to die one night in his sleep, a quiet end to a life which midway had to change course and resurrect from emotional perils. He was a farmer in Western Australia and one day while scouting his farm he tread on a dark black stone that looked awful different from the one generally seen there. He took it home and cleaned the dirt to notice that he may have tread upon a literal minefield. It became apparent soon that his farm of four hundred acres was a mine field with immense deposit of carbon stone. The deposit of diamonds altered his life drastically from thereon and the Government offered him a royalty of an outlandish sum per day by the hour. The deposits were estimated to be exquisite and lasting for a hundred odd years. The precious stone changed his life. His wife of thirty years in whose name the land was, stood to gain much of the royalty. His children grabbed the rest. She divorced him and shut the door leaving him in the cold. He left Australia with the annuity he had from his job of twenty five years, devastated. But none on this island have seen him lacking in mirth and gaiety. He took life by the horn and resurrected to live thirty five years after his departure from Australia. I was truly fascinated by the biography.
Ironically the story had a different flavor but the same whiff in his case too. He was a chemical engineer in the oil and natural gas mammoth in Australia. He married his distant cousin of ten years younger to him .He said they fell in love while in their adolescence. His zealous attitude to his profession and work was unique and uncompromising that it often paved way to irksome marital discords and even near separation. He virtually worked nonstop the twenty five years that his bride of much tender age than he was, was distressed and lonesome. She yearned for a life of travel and fun. While his predilection for his job ruled foremost vacations and time with the family was out of bounds. He hardly was even with his kids while they grew. When he decided to retire at fifty four to acquiesce his wife, he was unsure as she as to his ability to be away from his one and only passion- work. A month after he retired he was requested by the boss of the company to head the oil exploration on this archipelago which was ten thousand miles from home. As his wife feared he accepted and here he was living alone and working know not when to cease doing that. It is fifteen years since. His wife continues to live in Australia and hoping that he unlaces his shoes anytime soon.
I asked him if he would think to retire and go back home. He said he cannot tell if he would be able to say goodbye to work. He misses his family, in some ways but he has never felt remorse and bored for his passion for work or being away from homeland. he agreed that his outlook to work was fanatical.He continues to visit his wife and kids every year. And he feels that may be a consolation and departure from a regimen that stuck to him and that which he enjoys as much as the time he spends at the pub..
He said before he departed, “I feel too young to hang my boots.”