As I drove by I turned to look at the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. I could see the "Old Man" standing out on the sand like a sentinel. The "Old Man" waved at me. Then it struck me. He wants to tell me his story. I rushed home and returned to hike the 300 yards across a powder white landscape recently reshaped by hurricane Ivan. Before this, there had been a lush coastal area covered by many sea oats and sand dunes.
I studied the Old Man for a while listening to what he had to say. I asked how old he was and he replied that he did not know but he thinks he is at least 100 years old. He said life was hard at this spot but it was his home and he loved it here. I listened more as he told me about all the things he has seen in his life time......all the weddings, all the lovers on sunset walks, all the children having the time of their lives.....and that he has seen every sunrise and sunset since he can remember.
But he then told me how hurricane Ivan changed all that. Hurricane Ivan had been the worst storm he had ever seen. It destroyed his home and changed everything around him. His home, where he had been born and lived for so many years was gone. Now, he stands there defiant, refusing to leave. The Gulf, the sand, the fish, the birds are all a part of him and he will not leave this place.
Even though his home is gone and everything around him is changed the lovers on walks and the children having fun still come. He has all his friends and he has his long life to be thankful for. He says he has no regrets and has enjoyed every day of his life to the fullest. Before we finished he told me to remember that life is what you make of it and that you get what you give. I reached out and touched his hand to thank him for his time and his words. He became silent and smiled with a twinkle in his eye.
I asked to take his picture and he quietly said yes. I promised to come back sometime and he said he would like that. As I walked down the beach watching the sun begin to kiss the water. I turned back to see the old man waving. I could hear in the wind a voice say "now you know why I can't leave".