It was on a Saturday evening that I saw Mr. Albert for the first time, talking to dad near the porch at our ancestral home in India. Holding a lantern on one hand and a walking stick on the other, a long over coat and with one shoe shining more than the other, he looked like a character from one of the old English novels I had read.
As I came in Dad introduced me to him “This is Mr. Albert, he is a very close friend of mine, it has been a long time since we met”
“Hello Mr. Albert, it is a pleasure meeting you” I said with a smile
“The pleasure is all mine, to see my friend’s son come in front of me as a fine young man” He put his hand in his coat pocket and took a chocolate and handed it out to me.
Both me and my Dad were amused, I was turning twenty and I was done with my craving for chocolates since age 10.
Seeing the smile in our faces Mr. Albert grinned and said “You are still young to eat chocolates from an old man like me”
I took the chocolate from him and started observing him more closely while he and dad resumed their talk that was interrupted by my entrance
He looked much older than dad though they went to school together; he was much frail looking and with the over coat, lantern and stick he looked like an old light house watchman. I started searching my memories to see if he Dad had ever mentioned about him, anything that might help me relate to him in anyway.
The only incident where a mention about his childhood was made was when he got a letter from his uncle back home. This was about three years ago and that day at the dinner table he looked at me and said –
“Son, your future and dreams are all yours and you should pursue your dreams your way. I don’t believe that any son’s life should be used up in fulfilling the unrealized dreams of a father. Seeing you live your dreams I would have lived mine. In any relation between a father and son, the father also sees himself in his son and so when you ever feel that I am stepping on your toes in your pursuit for happiness you need to tell me, and I will move out. Just remember to make me a part of your life always”
He did not complete his dinner but got up gave me a hug and retired to his room. We never spoke about this incident after that, but his words did have a long lasting influence on me and my own dreams started becoming more and more clearer to me after that day.
But once my mom did tell me that the letter had to do something with a childhood friend of his who had lost his son to his fixed and stubborn ideas of parenthood.
I was woken up from my thoughts when I felt Mr. Albert’s hand on my shoulder and he was taking leave and telling my Dad
“My friend you are a very lucky man. A son is a treasure”
He then looked at me and continued
While some of us are left with nothing but a stick in this old age you have such a fine shoulder to hold on to”
I am not sure why I did it, but I stepped forward and hugged Mr. Albert and told him
“Sir I did not hear your conversation but I assure you that this hug and many more like this will keep you warm in the cold streets of life; Please have dinner with us”
Mr. Albert and Dad smiled again
“You are a very lucky man my friend”
“So are you Albert, as I use to tell you, you will always treasure my friendship”
Dad said and we all laughed and went inside the house.
The house was well lit and we all were holding hands together and Mr. Albert had forgotten his lantern and his walking stick outside in the cold