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A Simple Hug

Story ID:6364
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Caldwell Idaho USA
Year:2010
Person:She
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She was eighty years young and still very active. In this small town in southwest
Virginia, not much happened. It was just another empty day for a senior citizen who lived
by herself. Although she has four children, five grandchildren and several great
grandchildren, she was often alone.

In need of a few small things at the grocery and a desire to just get out of the
house and be among people, she took a trip to the local Kroger’s. Since there were only
her own needs to satisfy, she walked up and down the aisles with a small cart. With just
six items, she headed to the checkout.

He wandered the store. He’d come for a cup of hot soup and perhaps someone to
talk to. The soup was good, it always was, but no one wanted to talk to an old man.
Disappointed, he was about to leave when he saw her. She headed to the checkout with
only a few items.

“Good morning, Ma’am.” He smiled, “You can’t leave yet?”

She turned toward the voice. A well dressed man smiled at her. “Excuse me?” she
asked.

He pointed to the six items she’d selected. “Your basket is not full.”

“There’s no need to buy a lot.” she replied. “There’s no one to eat it.”

He stared at her for a moment and said, “I’m so lonely!”

“I know what that’s like.”

In the middle of an aisle, in a large grocery store, at 11:30 AM, they stood and
talked. “My wife and daughter died.” he said. “They died too young.” His eyes softened
as he spoke briefly of them and then added, “ I just recently, I lost my little Pomeranian.
She was all I had left. Now I’m alone.”

“I’m so sorry.” She felt her own eyes moisten. He was as alone as she was.

“It’s OK.” he said bravely. “I hope I can find another dog like her. She was such a
joy. At least someone needed me. She gave me purpose. Now I have none. Perhaps I’ll
get another, but at my age, I don’t want to leave her alone when my time comes. Then
again, I have this big house. A dog would be happy there. I’ve lived in it for fifty years. It
has big rooms.”

“Oh, the homes were built big back then. It was a time when people had large
families.” She smiled and wondered where the conversation was going.

“They sure did. This old place has four bedrooms. Three of them are empty. It’s
just me now.” He sighed. “There’s not much to do. My days are empty. I do get out as
often as I can. In fact, every morning I go to McDonalds for breakfast.”

“Good for you!” she said. “I try to get out as much as I can myself.”

“Those kids at McDonalds are very nice to me. They always greet me with a
smile and make such a fuss over me. They’re almost like having grandkids. And you
know what?”

“What?”

He leaned close and whispered. “They let me have my coffee for free. What do
you think of that?”

“That’s wonderful!” She knew the joy it must give him to feel welcomed.

They chatted for perhaps twenty minutes. “Well,” she looked into his eyes, which
now sparkled with pride over the family he had at McDonalds. “I must be getting home.”

“I understand.” The sparkle faded. “It was nice talking to you.”

“It was nice talking to you too.” She touched his hand. “I mean it.”

He looked back at her and asked softly, “Can I give you a hug?”

A bit taken by his request, but fully understanding his need, she said, “Yes!”

There they stood, in a warm embrace, in the middle of a busy grocery, on a
normal day, that was made special by a simple hug.

That evening, she reflected on her encounter with the man. She felt like he did,
alone in the world. How many others her age feel the same loneliness? How many seniors
just need a kind ear and perhaps a simple hug?

Michael T. Smith