Finding The Meaning Of Gratefulness

November 20, 2010

You ever wonder about things that make no sense at all?

For example: I have people that I know, some are considered friends while others are just a daily acquaintance that I have met in my lifetime. Some successful, some not, some have wives and kids, some can barely pay their bills on time and get by. They all live with the same credence as the others; they either love life, complain about how things could be better or worse, try too hard to get ahead or in some cases don’t try at all. 

Here you have people in their mid twenties walking around with bi-polar tendencies acting one minute as if they’re on cloud nine and the next Armageddon is around the corner with no way of a resolution.

Then you have days like today. I decided that I would begin going back to the gym to get myself into better shape. I was 60 reps away from finishing my workout when an interesting occurrence took place. 

The gym I workout at is quite small. An area no bigger than half the size of my apartment with two treadmills, two ellipticals, free weights and a weight machine. I work out there because after graduation I lost the ability to work at the school’s complex for free. So instead of paying 144 dollars for three months of usage at a four story complex in front of a bevy of gorgeous college girls I just decided to stay at this little gym at my apartment complex and get into shape. 

While working my upper body in the early afternoon of a cool fall Sunday an old man walked into the gym. He had to be at least 80 years old. He had a tan shirt on with tan plaid pants on pulled up to his stomach like it was 1950 all over again.

He had black casual shoes on with white socks looking nothing like a man who was trying to stay in shape even though he was at an age where appearance didn’t seem to matter. He he had trouble trying to enter the gum because he couldn’t enter the code properly maybe because at his age things tend to move slower than for young able bodies such as myself.

I walked over to the door and led him in as he thanked me over and over again with a big bright smile that revealed a mouth full of opaque teeth with one gold tooth nestled at the bottom row. His head was slightly bald with thinning grey hair laying in spot near the back of his head. His skin was bruised and blotchy. His were slightly visible from his exposed areas like his forehead and hands. On his wrist was an old cassio watch with a stretch band that he would take off a few times during his workout to check the time. In his shirt pocket were glasses, with a case in toe, a black comb and a pen. I kinda wondered why he had that pen. Maybe to do a crossword puzzle earlier in the day, maybe in case he had a memory that he wanted to jot down later for further remembrance, who knows.

As he began to workout he seemed confused by one of the pieces of equipment. He was attempting to figure out what the proper amount of weight was for him to lift but was confused because instead of the weight amount being listed on the weight there was a number instead. That always seemed to  confuse me as well. When I first started to workout there I had a hard time figuring out what was the right amount of weight for me to lift because instead of each weight listing intervals of 10 or 15 pounds there were numbers starting at 1 and ending at 20. So I definitely understood how not only a man at his age, but how anyone could be confused by a peculiar arrangement.

Eventually he came over to me and in a subtle but raspy voice he asked about the weights. “should I do a 4 or a 5” he asked. At first the lowness of his voice led me to think that he asked which one was 45 but I eventually figured it out. After scoping out his thin frame and factoring in the fact that he might’ve been 80 I adjusted the weight machine to 4. I figured it was enough weight for him to manage without hurting himself.

He again thanked me for my help and began lifting. It was one of those chest exercises where you pull the bar down to your chest and release. The way he did it was he pulled it down to just below his forehead and repeated. He did about 20 reps for each of his sets.

I continued with my shoulder presses while watching him in the mirror. I did it for various reasons; one, to make sure he didn’t hurt himself, two, to see if he needed help and three because I was impressed by him. Here was a guy,who has every right at his age to not want to do exercise of any sort, in the gym working out while half of my younger and more able bodied friends were in bed struggling with hangovers or ducking Sunday service.

After his second set and right before my bicep curls i went over to him to see if he was doing ok. He was a little winded without sweat and in good spirits. He went on about his workout the day before and how his workload today seemed to be going better than yesterday. He then began to tell me about his days in the army at a base in Kentucky, I wish I could remember the name though he said it more than three times. He told me stories about how cold the weather was and about how lucky he was to make it through training.

Then he said something that stuck with me. While rambling on as most people his age do, he began discussing the apartments across the street from the gym wondering aloud about the prices and how high they were. Then he said something that stuck with me, “people should realize how lucky they are to have what they have.” He said it in regards to the apartments that I viewed standing beside him, but I took it as more than that.

Everyday I wait tables, listen to my friends conversations, strangers and women I try to sleep with, an most of the conversations revolve around complaints. Complaints about women, men, jobs, school, fashion, life, everything. It’s like they never take the time to look at the things that make them happy or that they are lucky to have. Hell even I do the same thing sometimes. Here was a guy that was four times my age missing a tooth, with limited movement and a weakening body but had more motivation and more positivity than anyone I know. He smiled over the littlest things and was happy to be out and about. I admired him over these little things and hoped that not only I would be like him at his age but that maybe I could start trying to be like him now. Maybe I should be happier about things in my life and be more grateful for what I have. Maybe I should tell others to do the same. Maybe. 

Eventually my time was running short and I had to finish my last set and then leave so I broke away from our conversation. After I was finished I threw on my Duke hoodie and said goodbye to the man who replied with his own goodbye but added a huge smile and a wave. As I left he went back to lifting. Staying in some sort of shape even though he didn’t have to.

I haven’t seen him since. I go to that gym three times a week and unfortunately I haven’t had the pleasure of running into him. Maybe the weather is getting too cold and his old bones can’t take it, maybe he’s getting more tires as the days shorten, or maybe he works out earlier. That seems to be the most logical answer because he doesn’t seem like the type that would complain about the weather. He’s too strong willed, too determined and too appreciative of his own existence to let a thing like cold wind affect him. He doesn’t have much to himself but he’s happy with what he has and he does what he can to continue having it.

It’s something not just to admire but something we should all try to be.

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