He was an athlete.
He set many records in his small town of Wisconsin growing up. Tall, over 6' he played many sports, but running was his passion.
As his liver spotted hands lovingly opened the cardboard covered scrapbook, he shared that his mom had started the book.
No Creative Memories logos, stickers or stamps adorned the pages. Just weathered and crinkly construction paper pages with news clippings Scotch taped to each one.
His wife took over the documenting later, he shared. All the pages have yellowed, some tape needed replacing. Scribbled handwriting hard to read, he admitted, was his.
I looked at the pictures of the tall strikingly handsome young man in the pictures. Jumping over hurdles in track, hitting a home run on a little ball field in Kenosha, getting his Letter Jacket his senior year in high school. He saved each and every track number that had been tacked on his back. The safety pins still stuck through the paper.
His eyes tear up little as the picture of his young bride-to-be stands in front of his house celebrating with the team "win of the season."
"She hasn't even been gone a year..." his voice cracks.
He shares the glory day story of when he almost got thrown out of the game by the umpire when he stood up for his friend for an unfair call. The time he slid into 3rd base and almost broke an arm. Getting stuck in a snowstorm out of town with his team without his parents for the first time. Taking a drink of his first beer.
We turn pages slowly. As he looks back, remembering, it is hard to see the bent, not quite 5'6 man that gravity has shrunk down. His balding head, the brace on his now-bad-knee. His hands shake a bit as he turns another page. He laughs at the front page newspaper clipping in the scrapbook of him reaching high over his head to catch a ball perfectly poised to drop into his waiting glove. "Looks posed, doesn't it?" he asked. "Sure does!" I answer. "Lucky shot with the camera, my dad took that picture!" he states boldly.
After viewing the scrapbook, after hearing the glory-day stories, I can see why he wants to remain independent at age 87. I know now why he gets grumpy when I have to open the door FOR HIM, or carry all the groceries up to his small apartment. He grudgingly gets into MY car, not his, when we go to the doctor. We walk ever so slowly down the hallways with him holding onto the railing on his one side, schlepping his cane along at a snail's pace on the other.
I had perspective this day looking at the scrapbook.
I don't rush him anymore. We take our time and talk in the hallways now. I ask him about all the cars he has ever owned in his lifetime as we drive to an appointment. I let HIM open his apartment door and I am not impatient as he fumbles to be a gentleman.
For someone that ran so fast for such a significant part of of his formative years, this slowing down season is hard enough.
We stop, and smell coffee from a neighbor. (Or, to catch his breath!)
We chat just a little longer than before with Mrs. Smith on her way down to lunch in the elevator.
As we put things away together, and I pack up my things to leave him for the day, he gently closes the scrapbook. His eyes are far away, running the track or catching baseballs. I know in his mind he is still faster than ever, standing tall, and making headlines.
The slowing down years is showing him a different way of life in the little things. But its a process.
"When you run too fast, you don't notice others," he shared.
How many of us need to slow down a bit?