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A late note on father's day and familiar strangers

I am not looking to replace my dad, but I know someone who reminds me of him.

He is my neighbour, an 85-year-old man who lives on his own, exactly how my dad used to live. Even the lighting in his kitchen seems similar.

  • I often observe the way he walks—at a slow pace, with a slightly curved back, limping a bit—very similar to how my dad used to walk before he stopped walking.

  • There have been numerous times when I have offered to carry his bags, do the food shopping on his behalf, or even invited him for Christmas, as I knew he lived on his own. He always declines politely; he wants to be independent, just like my dad was.

  • Every time he sees me, he tries to make some sort of cheeky joke, just like my dad.

Reflecting on my feelings

I have been reflecting a lot on why I care so much about this man, who I know almost nothing about, and I came to this conclusion:

I am looking for a connection that makes me feel similarly to what it felt like spending time with my dad, even if it’s just 5% of it. I guess it is grief.

Father’s day

It was Father’s day last week, and I was on my way back from the gym when I saw my neighbour sitting by himself in a local coffee shop. So I took the opportunity and started chatting with him.

If you know me, you know I go straight into the hard questions. I asked him if he was a father, and he responded:

“No, we tried for many years and we couldn’t. Then we tried to adopt, and that was even harder, so we gave up.”

I felt that after that, I earned some points, so I asked if I could join him and grab a coffee together. He said yes (finally!).

We spent an hour talking about all sorts of things, from how he ended up living in our building, what he used to do for work, how I moved to England, the way his wife died 15 years ago, and my dad’s death. He told me he has been going to quite a few funerals recently. I know the underlying tone behind those words—he was thinking about his time in this world too.

While we were talking, sometimes he would just stop and stay quiet for a bit, almost like he was taking some moments to reflect. Again, a thing that my dad used to do a lot. It must be an “old people” thing.

That hour flew by. Some may think it is nice of me to spend some time with an elderly person, but in reality, I felt his company was exactly what I needed at that moment, so the benefit was for me. Maybe it was for both of us.

Once again, life keeps showing me beauty, or maybe I am more open now to see it in every little detail.

What are my takeaways?

Grief can lead to new connections

Learning: It’s okay to form new bonds that help keep the memory of your loved one alive. The person you love is irreplaceable, so do whatever makes you feel at ease.

Conversations can heal

Learning: Don’t shy away from difficult topics; you can help someone open up. You have nothing to lose.

See you in 2 weeks (in the mean time I may try to squeeze in another coffee with my neighbour 😃)


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