Page 11 - Scene Magazine 44-12 December 2018
P. 11

center, I thought about the holiday week- end approaching and the thousands of people who would be traveling. I thought about telling Ray that I no longer would be able to visit him. I pulled into the parking lot of the center. It was 11:40am. Ray was waiting for me at the door, anticipating our trip to the Cracker Barrel for lunch. “No, I can’t tell him, not today,” I thought. Maybe after Christmas.
As we drove to the Cracker Barrel,
I broke the long silence by asking him what he liked to do, besides fishing. “Not much,” he said after contemplating a few seconds. I ordered the beef stew and Ray ordered ham and biscuits. When the server asked if he wanted two or four bis- cuits, Ray said two. “You better bring him four,” I said. “He can take the leftovers home to feed his deer friends.” “Oh, yea,” Ray said, smiling. Ray liked to feed the deer from his window.
On the ride back, I asked Ray if he ever hears from his half sister in Kentucky. “Just about every day,” he said, surprisingly. “We send emails to each other.” I had forgotten that Ray has a computer. As we entered the lobby, Ray got in his scooter and headed for his room, eager to feed
his biscuits to the deer, probably waiting near his window. “See ya next Tuesday,” I shouted as I headed out the door.
As I lay on the heating pad on the sofa, my thoughts were still centered
on Ray. I had planned on visiting him before we went to the 7pm. Christ-
mas Eve service to drop off a tin of my homemade cinnamon almonds. But that was not an option. Neither of us was going to church. I could barely
stand up.
How can I tell this man, whose life I have invaded, that I have enjoyed our brief encounter but I was no longer going to visit him? “Hey,” my wife shouted as
I pulled a blanket over me. “I have to make a quick trip to the store, do you need anything?” “No, but stop at the mailbox and pick up the mail when you get back.”
What about the gift, I thought. I prayed that God would speak to me, or give me a sign, or something. I asked Him to tell me why He led me to the assisted living center and into the life of Ray. Then I dozed off.
“Here’s the mail,” my wife said as
she laid a stack of Christmas cards on the coffee table. As I picked them up,
I noticed one of the return addresses was the center. I knew it was from Ray. On the cover of the card was a beautiful illustration by Marjolein Bastin, a famous nature artist from the Netherlands. Inside
was a hand-written note: Our friendship means so much to me. Let’s always stay in touch. – Ray. The meaning of the “gift” became even clearer in an email I re- ceived from Ray later in the day. My eyes moistened as I read, all I ask for is your friendship.
Feelings of guilt and incredible elation filled my mind as I read the words again. I realized I had just received the best Christmas gift in my life. It didn’t come
in a box, wrapped in pretty paper. It was simply the gift of unconditional friendship.
I continued to visit Ray every Tuesday to play Gin Rummy. We kept a running score and after almost a year and a half, Ray won 24,356 to 23,679.
As I reflect back to November 26, 2008, I know my life was changed. Not because I was able to write a story about the greatness of another human being. But because another human being – a quiet, diminutive little man – touched my life by telling me our friendship means so much to me.
Ray was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2010. My last visit with Ray was on August 19, 2010. He passed the next day. He was 82.
Thanks Ray, for your gift.
Third place

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