This week, a new man in my life took a special place in my heart.
And yes, Kevin’s OK with it.
This man is 88 years old and recently joined the recreation centre where I work. Let’s call him “Arthur” (not his real name) for the sake of this story.
Let’s start at the beginning, which was about three weeks ago, on Spring Session Registration Day. Registration Day for each session’s fitness/music/art classes at my work is always chaotic. Members line up before staff are even at the Centre (some, patiently/some, not so patiently) and wait around for 2-3 hours before their number is called to go up to the desk and register for whatever class they want.
The job duty assigned to me on this particular Registration Day was to process all of the phone registrations. This was a job I gladly took because that meant I could hide out in the back office away from the chaos 😉 At one point, I left the office to use the washroom. After saying hello to a lady looking at our information board, she asked me if I had any suggestions for a house cleaner. I said I knew a couple, and that if she gave me her name and phone number I could get back to her with their info. She led me back to the table where her husband was sitting, to write the info down on a piece of paper from a pad she pulled out from her purse. And here enters Arthur into the story.
Arthur asks me if I am going to clean their house. I say, no, I work here at the Centre and have enough cleaning of my own to do at home haha. I notice he’s looking at our course selection book and ask if he has received a registration number. He tells me, no, he’s heard it could be a couple of hours to wait and they had another commitment they had to get to in the next hour, so they would have to come back another day to complete his registration. We had a short conversation and I say, you know what, how about I process your registration in the back rather than making you come back on another day. I told them to keep it on the sly as I have not offered this for anyone else – I am, after all, supposed to just be processing phone calls 😉 I then help him choose his classes, take his credit card info and hurry back to the office, before returning to them with their total and to say goodbye.
Fast forward to the following afternoon, when Arthur and his wife return to the Centre. I happen to be at the front desk when they come in and they tell me that they have been rethinking Arthur’s class choices and would like to change them (due to various reasons). I help them choose different ones that Arthur is happier with and then get their account sorted out. Throughout both this conversation and the first I had with Arthur the day before, I know that this is a special couple. Arthur jokes a lot and tells tales about himself and his wife. He has me laughing. He also has me admiring how I can tell how much he is still in love with his wife.
He says to me at one point, “thank you for being so kind to us. This place is lucky to have a person like you.” I appreciate his kind words – but did not think I have done anything special while helping him. It’s sad to think that I really stood out to him – as what does that mean about how have others have treated him in the past?
The following day, I receive a message from the receptionist to call Arthur’s wife. I call her back and she wants clarification on what classes Arthur is enrolled in. I go over the classes that they had changed into the day before and then also updated her on my “finding her a house cleaner” task that originally brought me to this couple. She then says that Arthur would like to talk to me. The first thing he says is that it was his birthday and that he was turning 88 years old. We discuss his birthday plans and then he asks me the same question his wife just did about his classes – so I repeat it all again. I can tell he’s a bit nervous about trying out these classes so after I hang up the phone, I email the fitness instructor and let her know to expect a “special man” in her class and that I would be there to introduce them on the first day.
Yesterday, he showed up for the other class he had registered in – a male choir – and he calls me over, asking if I can take a break with him for a bit (after I had just arrived for my shift haha). I say, sure I can. I end up sitting with him for over 15 minutes.
By now, I have realized that Arthur really enjoys to talk. And I don’t mind, because I enjoy talking to him, too. We go over a wide range of topics/questions, until he asks me if my husband is a romantic. I tell him, “yes he is.” “Oh that’s so good to hear,” Arthur says. “I’m a hopeless romantic myself.” He tells me he’s been married 65 years. He proceeds to gives me advice about dealing with arguments with your spouse (using an example from a fight he had with his wife the night before): don’t wait after an argument, not even half an hour. Admit you’re wrong. Hug it out. And then move on. He also tells me that they have a king-sized bed and that every night, they start sleeping facing away from each other, on opposite sides of the bed – but always end up facing each other, close together, while holding hands, during the night. It’s at this point that I have tears in my eyes. (Side story: a few weeks ago, Kenz asked me in the morning if I remembered holding his hand the night before. Apparently when he came to bed after I was already asleep, I reached out for his hand and then held it for about five minutes. I don’t remember any of that).
At another point in the conversation, Arthur slides a Tim Horton’s gift card across the table at me. “What’s this for? You don’t need to give me anything,” I say. He then explains that he always carries around gift cards like this for special people that he encounters in his life. Towards the end of our conversation – out of the blue – he asks me, “does your husband know that you are a warm person?” He goes on to explain that I can talk and communicate well, am helpful and friendly. I say, “well, he definitely knows I’m a talker,” haha….but that “yes, I think he would agree.”
So this week, amid the chaos of first week of Spring classes at the recreation centre I work at, I got reminded why I love my job so much. I am so glad that I took the time, even though it was chaotic the first day, and that I had just arrived to work and took a break right away to chat with him again the other day (and so glad that I work somewhere that did not berate me for doing so).
Funny that Arthur thinks that I am the special person, as he now has a special place in my own heart.