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Old Souls

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„Sweetheart, can you help me? “
Christen turned around, looking at Walter and immediately seeing that he dropped his ball again.
“You are supposed to keep that in your hand, you know?” Christen tells him while smiling at the old man. Walter was one of her favorite patients. Always polite although she didn’t really enjoy anyone calling her sweetheart – but old habits die hard. She corrected him for the first few months but just gave up at some point.
Apart from that she enjoyed her moments with Walter. He seemed to genuinely care about her life, always interested and his never ending advice suited his whole old-wise-grandfather-persona. He also looked a lot like an old ship captain. He was always wearing a captain's head and a white shirt. His full, white beard made him look like a character straight out of a children's book.
He came into the retirement home shortly after christen started working there a year ago. His wife had died a few years prior and after suffering a stroke he couldn't walk anymore. Still sitting in a wheelchair today he has made a good recovery in many aspects. He was talking a lot and had full mobility in his right hand. His left hand was still a bit weak but he exercised regularly even outside of his physical therapy sessions - just like right now. She placed the small, red ball back in his hand and watched him squish it from time to time. He seemed lost in his own thoughts today. They often joked when they spent time together. Christen really enjoyed working at this nursing home.

Because it was one of the higher priced ones they had way less residence then the one she worked at in LA. This gave her the freedom to actually spend time with many of the patience.

She genuinely loved all of them.

But Walter had a special place in her heart. They bonded quickly when he came here. Because she was new herself they both were figuring out their life in a new place. She moved to Portland because of this job, and mostly because she felt a need for change. She loves her family and had a lot of friends in LA but something pulled her out of it. She felt stuck in a life that didn’t seem to change much anymore. And when she got offered a job at this high end residential home she went with her gut feeling and just took it.
She wasn’t usually a spontaneous person – but she never regretted it.

She was reorganizing the shelfs in the community room and attended the bookshelf again after helping Walter.
After a moment of silence he spoke up again: “You know sweetheart I have to ask you something” She turned around and looked at him curiously. The big hearted man seemed more serious than usual. So she abandoned the bookshelf for a moment to sit down in one of the armchairs.
“You know that you can ask me anything” she told him with a smile. And it was true – they had become something like close friends over the last year. It might seem weird from the outside because of their age difference but that was never really holding them back; they shared the same sense of humor and were genuinely interested in each other's lives.
She really considered him a friend – and she meant it when she told him as much.
“are you happy here?”
Christen was taken a bit aback by the question – she didn’t think she seemed like she wasn’t. And she didn’t really think about it on a day to day basis – but she always made an effort to have a positive outlook on life and on herself. She chose to be optimistic on most days and thought she was doing a good job at it.
He deserved a honest answer though so she really thought about it before answering
“I think I am, yeah. I like working here and I have a good roof over my head also I'm surrounded by a lot of people I genuinely care about. Where is this coming from Walter?”
He looked at her with his dark brown eyes – he always seemed to be looking straight into her soul. He was quiet for a moment. And Christen thought she saw a glimmer of sadness behind his eyes.
“Today is my wedding anniversary” his smile seemed melancholic. It didn’t reach his eyes like it usually did. Instinctively Christed reached for his hand.
He talked a lot about his wife – and Christen was sure he loved her with all of his heart. He was just that kind of man. He rarely seemed sad while talking about her – his outlook on life was generally a positive one like Christens. Her heart broke even for the slight hints of sadness that was habouring in his face right now. She knew he wasn’t done talking. So she just right hand in both of hers and stroke over the backside of his palm with her thumb.
“My wedding day – I know it sounds cliché – but it really was the happiest day of my life! I couldn’t believe that I found a woman like her. And that we found the love we have.” For a moment he hesitated - he looked like he was going to correct himself . Instead he looked straight into her eyes: “I still feel it, you know? I still feel her love. And I still love her so much. I know she is out there looking after me. I see her love in my children – and grandchildren'' he is smiling his biggest smile now. The tears that are forming in his eyes are the bitter mix of tears of love, joy, loss and sadness. “Oh gosh – I even see it in my great grandchildren!
Breathing deeply he continues:
“She made me happier than I ever deserved in a livetime. And I wanna celebrate that today. I just … can you… would you mind taking me to church today? I know it's not a Sunday. I just always feel closest to her there. Do you think you could take me there today?” He is looking at the ceiling trying to compose himself. A few tears are running down his cheeks – although he is still smiling the biggest smile she has seen.

She loves his smile.

Her eyes are also getting wet. Full of empathy with her old friend. With the love he has for his family and the world. With the love she also feels from him – and for him.
“Of course we can! I finish my shift at 3 PM today – and I would be honored to take you after”
“Oh Sweetheart – I don’t wanna crash any plans! I thought you could take me as part of your work”
“I probably could do that” she thinks for a moment, “but it would be rushed. I told Eliza I would reorganize the shelfs today. I really don’t mind taking you after – and we have all the time we want. Maybe we can get some Ice-Cream too” She winks at him – they both have a sweet tooth and bonded over many secrets and or stolen Ice-Creams over time.

He smiled at her appreciatively – just nodding in approval. He really was way more quiet than usual.

 

When they were sitting at the café and ordered some ice cream, Christen decided to speak up.
They were quiet on their way to church and during their time there.
They were quiet while they were lighting a candle at the back end of the church.
And they were quiet on their way to the café.

Christen didn’t mind it. She knew silence can be powerful and she simply enjoyed their surroundings while she was pushing his wheelchair. After sitting down at the café though she felt like he was getting lost in negative thoughts. He seemed sad. Very sad. Not just melancholic.
“Tell me about her” she surprised herself with the question... “only if you want to of course”
He was looking at her. With a little sparkle in his eyes. Harboured deep behind the sadness. He looked at her.
Like really looked at her.
Sometimes it felt like he could see straight into her soul. Not in a way that was scary, but in a way that only the wisdom of a long life teaches you how to.
He looked at her appreciatively. With so much trust and warmth.
“I’d love to!” The sparkle in his eyes got bigger, growing with every memory that flooded through his mind in that moment. He didn’t really know where to start. And after a moment of silence he told Christen what was on the forefront of his mind.
“You would have loved her!”
“She was quite a troublemaker, she always knew what she was going for. I really didn’t stand a chance. She was more confident than I ever will be. And I know it should have scared me – woman at that time were quite different that today. All the other girls were quiet and reserved, well mannered and put together. But not my Tobin! She had my heart from the moment I saw her! She was working at a cinema box office – I was just traveling through New Jersey for work. I was bored and alone – My hotel was in a small town with nothing much to do, so I decided to go and watch a movie. I didn’t even know what they were playing that night – I still don’t know!” He is smiling his warm, big smile again. “She was sitting at this small booth – looking at me like I was mental to be watching a movie on my own. And somehow she convinced me to stay with her. We talked until her shift was over. We went to a bar and ordered two beers. She was even paying for them! I hadn’t seen a woman order for a man even less paying for both of them. I knew she was special – and I was so drawn to her! I walked her home – I wanted to ask her on a date – or even kiss her right then and there. But she just opened the door, turned around and pointed at the numer on the wall. Telling me that I know her address now and she expects a letter in the mail from me.” Walter is full on laughing now and Christen can't help but let out a chuckle. “She closed the door without even saying goodbye”
“So I assume you wrote her the letter?”
“Are you kidding me? I started writing it as soon as I got back to the hotel. I even delivered it myself bevor I had to leave the next morning”

Christen was replaying that story later that day when she was sitting on her balcony. She tried to imagine a young version of him, hopelessly in love with a woman who was ahead of her times.
Walter kept telling her Stories about his Tobin until it got dark outside and she took him back to the retirement home. The warm juli night engulfing them, while she pushed his wheelchair.
Nights like these felt magical to Christen. The warm summer air, the streets still filled with people - with life even after the sun went down.The smell of freshly cut grass, warm asphalt and a bbq somewhere along the way mixed together in the unique blend that smells like freedom - like a summer break - like happiness.
He told her how she wrote him a letter back, and although they only could see each other every two months when he was traveling the same route for work over and over again, they fell in love. And their love seemed deep and meaningful. Christen is shure she would have loved Tobin. She sounded like someone who kept him on his toes. Who was open to the world and opened her heart even more for everyone living in it. He told her how he proposed without asking her father because he hadn’t even met him.
Sitting on her balcony now she imagined it all like a black and white movie - it was silly - but sometimes she over romanticized stories like these.
She smiled to herself.
She loved that Walter trusted her like that. She really, really enjoyed talking to him.
He had this warm and welcoming aura that they just got comfortable in.
Thinking about him and his Tobin made her heart beat a little faster.

Stories about real life got her in a way no movie ever could.
She felt the emotions Walter was talking about while he was telling them. And she tried to feel them over and over again while she closed her eyes to retell the story to herself.

Behind closed eyes she could see that little new jersey town - the old buildings and the sell signs in front of the shops - the facette of the cinema Tobin was working at - the paper they wrote their letters on to each other.

She inhaled deeply, smelling the sun that was setting a few hours ago. She didn’t want to go to bed. She wanted to start dreaming right here. She didn’t want to lose the warm feeling of this story about young love. But she knew she should.
She thought to herself that if she just ignored that she was living in a different time, not looking at all the electronic devices in her small flat, she could just start dreaming before she even got to bed.
She didn’t want the feeling of loneliness to get to her today.

 

While drifting off to sleep, she thought to herself that she might have just been born in the wrong time. The fast pace lifestyle everyone seemed so adapted to just didn't get to her in the same way the stories of all her senior friends got to her.
She had dreamed about their dance parties, and the way she might have found the love of her life at one of them.
She romanticised those simpler times. It seemed impossible to meet someone outside of some sort of a modern dating app or website today. And that’s just not what she wanted. That much was for sure!

Those were the last thoughts she had before she fell into a deep sleep dreaming about a reckless woman in a long dress with a self-confident smile and a big heart.