Jack is 100 years old. He lives at the retirement community where I have worked for about a year. Jack’s birthday party was a huge bash with lots of old friends and relations, even some media. I got to see old pictures and hear stories about how deeply he loved his wife and children; one cousin even told me that everyone used to call Jack a “ne’er-do-well” but showed them all what a good man he was.
I told several people my favourite story about Jack: a few weeks after I started working there I decided to run to Subway for lunch, I hopped in my car and drove the two blocks to the shops. And as I drove I saw Jack, more than 55 years my senior, who was walking to the shops instead. What a show off, yeah? And when he walked by people shouted “Hello there, Jack!” (Ask me the secret to living to 100 again?)
After his party, though, Jack was exhausted. Lunches and long lost friends and television interviews really seemed to take their toll. I asked him if he was okay and he said he was tired. We chatted about his brush with celebrity and he remained his humble self and told me that he owed it all to his wife, who was an angel on earth and is now an angel in heaven. He told me he was lonely, his eyesight was failing, he couldn’t even read a newspaper or watch tv. Everyone he knew kept dying and he was so much older than the people around him. I squeezed his hand in support but we both knew there was nothing I could say to make that better.
Over the next several days I watched for him, called out a greeting as I passed by, introduced him to my guests as our resident celebrity who danced in a recent advertisement for the residence. I was happy to see his energy and spirit return, slowly but surely. He can’t walk to the shops any more but he still gets around. Last week, as I was having a heated debate with the photocopy machine, I could hear him whistling and saying “hello sweety” to staff and residents as they walked by. I immediately went over and sat down next to him.
I said, “Jack, do you know how special you are to the people here?” He shrugged his shoulders. I said, “Jack, do you know why you are so special?” He shook his head. I said, “You make people feel good. By saying hello, whistling a happy tune, tipping your hat to a gentleman and stepping aside for a lady to pass. You are an absolute pleasure to be around and I’m so glad to know you.”
So, let me tell you about Jack. Jack is the mold. You know how people say god got it right and then he broke the mold so it could never be repeated? Jack is the mold.