The Old Man by the Sea


The old man stood on the pier. He was there at high tide. He was there at low tide. He particularly liked to be there at sunset. He seemed to know everyone and everyone seemed to know him. If you walked by him on the pier, you wouldn’t have found anything particularly physically special about this man. He was more than middle-aged. Animated in his physical movements. Tall in stature. He seemed to make an effort to meet most people who frequented the pier.

Joy began to talk to him about the manatees in the water. He heard her mention them and pointed out the spot to her where she might see them. He was amusing and both she and Glen enjoyed talking with him. She felt like he was doing stand-up comedy. Finally, Glen went off to talk with one of the fishermen on the pier. Joy enjoyed speaking to the old man. She sought out intellectual conversations whenever the opportunity arose. He certainly fulfilled that need for her. At first, she snapped pictures of the beautiful sunset as they talked.

He was the kind of person you felt like you had known forever. You wished you had known him forever. He was wise. Kind. One of Joy’s first impressions was that his eyes seemed to look right through her, right to her heart and soul. She found that interesting, but disconcerting. They talked a bit about their work and each downplayed what they had done in their past life, before retirement. She still did not know exactly what the old man did in his former life. He learned a bit more about her, but not specifics. Somehow, those things didn’t seem important when they were talking. They talked about deeper things, although they kept it lighthearted in tone.

The sun set and the old man told her about some of the creatures of the night that came to the pier. The night heron who tried to steal the fisherman’s catch. The great egret who stood at the far end of the pier and watched the action. The manatees. The dolphins. Joy felt that he had so much more to share with her that they could talk forever.

The old man introduced her to many people who came to the pier and told her about them. What they did, who they were, how they fit in his life. She had never really met anyone like him. Joy’s career had been almost exclusively male-dominated. She had not only worked mostly with men, but had male friends, all her life. She enjoyed the company of men, often more than women. She was comfortable.

Joy found herself drawn to this man of the sea, drawn to his interesting observations about life. She liked to listen to him and would have liked to talk with him more, but there was no opportunity.

One day she went to the pier at high tide. Her worst fear had come true. The old man  wasn’t there. She went back at low tide, then at sunset. No sign of him. She repeated that pattern for many days. She felt a deep sense of loss. Maybe someday he’ll be back, she thought.

It had been a long time since Joy had let anyone close in any way. The old man of the sea had touched her soul. She didn’t even know his name.

Copyright Rosemary Carlson 2017

*Photo Credit to Last Door Down the Hall Blog


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