Portrait of an Older Gentleman

The first thing I notice when he enters the room is his smell. Not a bad one, per se – it’s powdery and reminds me of Sunday afternoons at my grandparents’ house years ago. He smiles at me and says my name with care, holding his laptop in one hand and closing the door with the other.

“Hi Mohan,” I reply, returning the grin as he enters the room. He sets his things down and takes a seat, moving slowly but deliberately. There’s small talk for a second as we enter the virtual meeting we have set up so that he can teach me how to analyze data for a customer.

The man sitting across the table is no doubt three times my age, but he’s doing what I’m doing, working where I’m working, using the same tools as I do. He knows his way around the computer rather well, and though he types slowly, there’s a lot of thought and meaning behind each word. He takes his time explaining things to me, and while I’m inclined to lose my patience or my fast-paced train of thought in between his, I use the time instead to marvel instead at who this man was and who he is today.

In many ways it could be hard for us to relate to each other: me, a “millennial”, and a man who grew up (what seems like) forever ago. But we connect in a deep way. Instead of becoming impatient with my occasional lack of focus, he talks to me like I’m his granddaughter, and I appreciate that. There’s a certain level of comfort in this man with large glasses and white eyelashes. His kindness, while different from everyone else’s, is sincere, warm, and very welcome.

I wonder what it’s like for him. He comes to work every morning just like I do, but his life outside the office is drastically different. He mentioned to me last week that his roommate from college was dying from cancer – it must be unbearably hard to watch your friends start to die around you.

I want to be his friend, his surrogate granddaughter who goes to him for advice, help, or just to talk over a cup of tea. He mentioned that he’s more than happy to write me an evaluation for work if I ever need it – I wish I could do something for him.

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