There is a man in town who, in the Summer, goes to our local store to have an ice cream cone now and then. What makes this man stand out to me is that he buys his ice cream cone somewhere around 10:45am. I thought it peculiar the first time I saw him sitting at a picnic table with it. He was staring straight ahead or up at the sky as he ate it, making no notice of anyone coming and going. By the time I came back out of the store after a quick errand, he was wiping off his face, standing slowly into a shuffle, finding his footing, and then walked back to his total Old Guy car.
I have seen him a few times since, each Summer I have been here. I have noted the time, sometimes 11:15, sometimes 10:50. I would get a small chuckle out of seeing him enjoy such a treat so early in the day. I am a rather scheduled person myself, and see 11:00am as not quite a desert time. What made him do it?
I'll tell you.
He and his wife used to go for ice cream on warm Summer evenings all the years they were together. Sometimes they would venture to far off towns to try a different ice cream stand, and other nights to a few of their old faithful local places. They would sit together, working away on their ice cream cones, looking at each other, looking at the setting sun, checking each other for drips and mis-licks, saying very little of anything during this quiet, delicious, familiar time.
As they grew older together, his wife became ill and started asking to go a little bit earlier to the ice cream stand. Some days he would drive her far into other towns to try new places, and the ride was very soothing to her. Other days he would take her down the road to the store knowing that their outing had to be a shorter one for her. They would still sit quietly, enjoying their treat and warm company, and then get up to leave.
At one point, their outings, though infrequent, were becoming more consistently before lunch time. She became too unsettled as the day went on now. And when he asked her why so early she would always say, "Why the wait? Why not now?" He would always take her. He eventually stopped commenting on the time. "Why not now?", he thought. "Why not dessert first? Why not a pleasant moment right when it can be had?"
Eventually his wife went into a home for care. He would go and visit her every day. He would bring a different pint of ice cream each visit and would feed her some whenever she woke, and he would kiss her deep, wrinkled brow before he left, whether she was awake or asleep. The feeling always made her close her eyes anyway.
Ever since she passed away, when the mood would strike him, or when he was feeling too alone in his home, the man would come to the local store for ice cream. He didn't bother traveling anymore. He didn't see the point in it. He didn't need conversation while eating it since they never held one. He just needed to sit for ten minutes, look at the sky, and eat his treat- all the while thinking of his sweetie that went away.
At least that is what I think.
Dessert first, friends.