A Man Named Ted
*Post originally published in 2009 and in the book Kirtsy Takes a Bow – A Celebration of Women’s Online Favorites.
There’s a man named Ted who lives in a senior home near our house.
I’ve only met him once, but he’s had a place in my heart ever since.
I first saw him about a year and a half ago, when I was out running errands.
I’d been driving by the Home and noticed him sitting out front, watching cars go by. As I drove past, I wondered what he was doing…
Was he waiting for a ride? Was someone coming to visit him?
A couple days later, I was on the same road, at about the same time, and there he was again–white haired, tall and thin.
And all by himself.
Again, I wondered…
Did he have family? Or friends?
I thought about him the whole way home.
When I saw him again a few days later, I felt a pull to stop and talk to him–a pull so strong that I slowed down and turned into the parking lot after the next intersection, thinking I should go back. But when I looked at the clock, I realized I had only fifteen minutes to pick my son up from school.
I sighed and drove off, promising that next time I’d say hi.
Then I realized I didn’t have to wait until next time…
“Want to surprise someone today?” I asked my son when I picked him up.
We went home and cut roses from our yard. I took the thorns off, and we made a bouquet. Then we drove back to the Home.
But when we got there, the man was gone.
I parked the car and we went inside, hoping to find him.
“Can I help you?” the woman at the front office asked as we walked in.
“This might sound strange,” I started nervously, “but I’m looking for a man who sits outside in the mornings, right out front. He’s tall and has white hair…”
“That sounds like Ted,” she said, smiling.
I showed her the roses. “We wanted to give him these.”
“He was just here.” She looked around the lobby. “There he is,” she said.
I saw him by the stairs.
My son and I walked up to him.
“Ted?” I asked.
“I see you in the mornings sometimes when I drive by.” I held out the bouquet. “We just wanted to give you these and say hi.”
Slowly, he took the roses, a look of surprise on his face.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Then he turned to my son and reached out his hand.
And I got a lump in my throat.
Because it’s beautiful to see the hand of a child wrapped inside that of a ninety-or-so-year-old man.
He asked my son what his name was, and he thanked us again.
We only stayed for a minute before saying goodbye.
But in that moment, Ted made his way into our hearts.
When my husband and I took our kids to the Home last Christmas to deliver some cards that they’d made, they walked up and down the halls looking for a door with the name Ted on it. When they found one, they picked out their favorite card and set it on the floor in front of the door.
And to this day, when I drive down that road, I look for Ted sitting outside.
The best part is, so do my kids.
I know that Ted might have a family that sees him often. And he might have friends that bring him flowers or send him cards.
But, then again, he might not.
Either way, I’m thankful I met him.
Because it reminded me of the impact that reaching out to others can have.
And the importance of caring about people we may not necessarily know.
And I’ll never forget the image of that man holding my son’s hand,
or the smile on both of their faces that day.