I had noticed Mr. Smith in his yard next door, pulling weeds and fertilizing grass. He leaned over the fence to be neighborly. His voice might have been powerful once but the years had tamed it to a near whisper. He said with a wistful smile, as his faded eyes teared up,
“Today is my wife's birthday and our anniversary.”
“How many years have you been married, Mr. Smith,” I asked.
“Sixty one,” he replied, as he lifted the bib of his Korean Veteran's hat and wiped the sweat from his wrinkled, coffee-colored brow.
“Some folks ask me how I keep going at my age and I tell 'em, hard work. Don't never give up and quit 'cause when you do you won't be able to start yourself up again.”
There was a deep, infectious chuckle that escaped his throat when I told him he is an inspiration to me. Later he rang my door bell holding a little green plant in his gloved hand.
“Watch out for this. This here is poison oak and you got some in the corner of your yard. Spray some weed killer on it and don't try to pull it up. This here is bad stuff!”
I thanked him and he apologized for bothering me. I assured him he could never be a bother. He said,
“That big tree in your backyard, it's a fig tree. Thing is loaded down with fruit but you gotta pick it quick before the blackbirds gets it.”
“Do you like figs, Mr. Smith?” I asked.
“Not specially but my wife, she likes 'em.”
“Then I'll make sure to pick some for her before the birds take them.”
“That'd be mighty kind of you.”
He turned to leave and I watched as he slowly headed across my front yard back to his. I felt such appreciation for this gentle man who had risked his life to defend our country and freedom of our allies. No doubt the war had left scars on him. Physical perhaps and emotional for certain. Maybe we would discuss that another day over the back fence. Today the topics were birthdays, anniversaries, hard work, life, health, figs and poison oak. Mr. Smith being a wise man, knew much about them all.