He waited, sitting in a chair inside the lobby where I worked for many years when I first saw him.
With his backpack, full of stuff and grimy from the roads, he looked like he travelled on for years on end by the looks of him. An old Indian, with somewhat a familiar face to me, I couldn’t place it right away. Perhaps 85 years old, give and take 15 years. So familar face to me but I couldn’t bring it to my mind at the time.
He stood up when he saw me coming through the door, I had no choice, but to go into his embrace.
”I looked for you for many a year now. I tried to keep my promise to your dad.
You are still lost in this lifetime.” He told me quietly. Seeing the real me underneath the facade I have been wearing for sometime now.
He stank of road dust, grime and other scents that I did not want to know or speak of. But I did not care- I finally recognized him, by close up and the voice of his. Smooth dark and a strong, speaking voice.
Big Jim, my dad’s oldest and dearest friend, I have not seen him since my dad’s funeral and wake 20 odd years ago.
I had vaguely remembered him coming up to me and said something like to the effect, follow your dreams, Dad approves, after the service.
At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to him and his words. My attention was on the funeral and the guests.
I remember Dad had always said, trust Big Jim when he tells you something and listen hard.
Dad’s friends had always crossed many barriers of culture and race, the funeral at the time, reflected it, Childhood friends from Chinese, Menninote, local characters and many others came to pay respects to Dad. They loved him and respected his life, he had respected their cultures and traditions but never assumed his way was the best way.
I always assumed it was the way he was raised by his parents, my grandparents, the openess and willingness to learn new ideas. But the best way to do this, is to be raised with them all.
The orchards and farms did not discriminate from another culture to another, they all grew up knowing each other culture. Having enough food to last through winter and spring in the harshest time of winter, all of them helped out when needed through health and Mother Nature’s whims. They all helped out each family when food became scarce during its worse time. They all had experienced it one time or another.
Big Jim, here smaller and shorter than what I remembered. His travels showed on his face. Lined in sorrow and something else?
‘I dreamed of you and your dad Jimmy for months now, the Irish, bull headed and the most stubborn man, He made me travel all the way to here to tell you his message.”
We were standing in lobby where fellow employees and customers are looking at us. My business suite told them that I work here. My visitor? No.
‘ Lets go to my office, I have tea and sandwiches for you,’ to Big Jim. Seeing this might come to be a private affair not for the public.
Big Jim, after looking around at the lobby, my co workers are looking at us, and wondering who is he? not a customer or client.
He tried to get up but almost collapse to the floor before forcing his body to obey him. I steadied him when he tried to stand up.
“Shall I get that? I motioning to the pack back and grabbing the top handle to swing it over my shoulder and back. It was heavy and bulky too.
‘ Too heavy for you,’ Big Jim said with a smile.
I can carry that packback, Remember?
I had forgotten that, the strongest girl I know. Big Jim remarked.
‘ Told your Dad, not the treat you as a mule at times. You still needed to marry a boy, not a donkey.’
Jimmy, you know he just laughed at me, then he spoke to me, she’s my girl.
You could had the hay stacked like a farmhand with grace and less effort. You also made my farmhands jealous and envious.
Shaking his head in remembrance, Big Jim followed me to my office, I hefted the back pack with no effort at all down to my office.
I remembered that time, Dad had wanted hay for the heifers, we were raising heifers for beef that year. Calling around, Dad and myself, went to Big Jim’s ranch to grab some hay bales for a good price.
I was the loser that day, my brother gone to work and my younger sister couldn’t pitched the bales, too young, to the old trailer, we used that day.
I hated the heifers for the years, I went vegetarian for many years after that.
Your ranch? Still in your family? I asked Big Jim, as we walk to my office. It was a nice spread too, diverse in areas, cattle, apple and peach orchards, another crops and still respecting the landscape where it used to be years ago.
Sold it to my grandson and then he sold it in parcels to a developer for lots of money, housing, retail etc. Big Jim remarked in sorrow and sadness.
I am sorry to hear that, it was a good ranch with lots of potential for years to come.
I said to him, opening my door to the office that I use for my work.
Walking into my office, I placed his back pack in one of the armchairs I used for meetings instead of desk table.
Big Jim looked around seeing my office, noticing all sorts of items that I collected over the years.
Are you happy? He asked me, seriously in a tone, I hardly hear him use.
Big Jim looked at home, here in my office. I made tea for both of use, raiding my stash of biscuits and my lunch bag for him. He looked like he hasn’t had enough food recently.
Skinner, his stature shrunk from what I remember, tall and imposing at one time. Once a big presence in years past, now an old man, Big Jim is not what I had remembered.
I didn’t answer him back yet. ‘ No, I am not happy here and I am not sure why.’
Big Jim.? Why are you here, its a long drive from your home.’ handing him his teacup.
Big Jim asked for milk for his tea. I raided the lunch room for it, I never take milk or cream or sugar in mine.
He waited for several minutes, drinking tea and eating some sandwiches to give him strength to speak.
Roast beef sandwiches? My favorites, and my intended lunch. I just had enough leftover beef from this past weekend to make a couple sandwiches.
He avoided my questions too. I let it go for now, I wondered how long he traveled by bus, car or hitch hiked ?
I thought carefully, letting him eat his fill.
My dreams of your father, Jimmy, had haunting me for years now. Keep telling to pass on his love and keep doing what you love to do.
Speaking carefully, Big Jim stopped for a moment for sip of tea, wetting his throat.
No chance of something stronger? He asked, pointing to his tea.
I shook my head, No ‘ I will never get any peace in here to get any work done.
Big Jim looked at me,’ You look so much like her and yet different but I can still see your dad in you.”
‘Mom, I suspect’ I said to him. I will never know the reason why Mom hooked up with dad and she already had two children from a previous marriage. She finally married Dad when she obtained a divorce in my teens. What a wonderful graduation gift.
Yes, your mom, god, she was a woman that I never thought your dad would meet. Then you came around.
He smiled at me, remembering the past.
I diapered you and your sister’s bottoms too many times when your mother had to help with harvest apples and other fruits for hours on end. And this was on my lands too.
I chuckled at this, knowing he has the right to say it to me. The stories were constantly told over and over again.
Big Jim leaned over to get something from his back pack. I poured more tea in both our teacups. And waited, my nod to my grandparents, tea must come from a tea pot, not a mug, English to the core.
Swearing quietly to himself, Big Jim slowly went through all the pockets of the backpack. How many pockets did it have?
Taking the chance to check for messages left on my phone, there a lot of messages, I ignored most of them. Will go through them later, thinking quickly.
Now Big Jim needs my attention. I quickly send out a group email, stating that I am in a personal meeting and will contact all, once it was over. I soon saw a message from my head boss asking if the person I am meeting, security need to know? Question.
No, after some thought, I personally emailed him back, saying its family business, no risk to me at all.
‘Here’ Big Jim said to himself, ‘it is’.
Finally found what he was searching for, grabbing the teapot placing it on the coffee table, tea cozy to keep it warm.
Big Jim holding out his hand, something bundled in his hand towards me.
For you, from your Dad, my old friend, Jimmy. He wanted you to have these and something else too.
Big Jim closed his eyes after I had taken the bundle from his hand.
Spoke in a fatherlike voice, Tranced.
”Believe in yourself , I believe.
We all believe in you, follow your heart and your calling.
Do not let others sway you off your course.
Give yourself a dream and wish for freedom to do what you are meant to do.
Forget you co workers, family and friends tell you not to follow your dreams, these dreams.
Become what you are and should have been years ago.