By Jim Kenshalo
Veterans Day 2020
Last year, I found myself killing a little time in a line at the hearing-aid counter of our local big-box store. There I stood, just another old man in the line.
Like sheep in a wiggly line, we watched and we waited for our turn. The lone gloved-up hearing-aid technician, a capable young lady, toiled at digging the earwax out of the tiny hearing-aids of an little old solder who was saddled up on a red electric scooter that matched his red WWll veterans hat. He had to lean forward and stretch his little neck to look over the counter to watch her work.
There working behind the counter, our technician laughs at all of his corny jokes. This young lady is always so sweet to all of us old goats who can’t hear. She’s very patient and she seemed to know everyone by name.
Finally, she handed back the old soldier’s clean hearing-aids. She reached across the counter to lend a hand. Pulling on each big hairy ear, up and back. Using two hands the old soldier wiggled these da-- things into his ears.
She look at him and said, “Can you hear now?”
The old soldier gave her a shaky salute.
She then said, ”Happy birthday.”
Oh! He got so excited hearing this. He took the young lady's sky-blue-gloved hands into his knobby old mitts and told her “thank you.”
(That I heard. Yes, I DID have my hearing aids in, thank you).
I bellowed, “How old are you, soldier?”
He turned and pointed his bent shaky finger at me. With a giggle, he said, “I am 99 years old today.”
Well, there is an announcement. How exciting and cause for celebration.
After several “huh’s, “what’s” and “how old is he?” The people in line began expressing their birthday wishes to this old veteran of 99 years. Even a couple of ladies in a nearby vitamin aisle joined our growing circle of birthday revelers.
Over all this commotion, I shouted to him, “What do you owe your longevity to, soldier?"
Is it getting plenty of sleep?
Is it lots of sex?
Is it drinking Scotch?”
With a wide toothy grin he replied, “there was plenty of time for sleeping when you're dead. I have five children, 14 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren, 18 great-great-grandchildren, and I have a glass of red wine every night with dinner.”
The hearing aid counter crowd erupted in another cheer.
I took in a deep breath. With my best Pavarotti impression, I began to sing “Happy Birthday,” and the crowd joined in. This old guy pinked right up in the glow of all this attention. But we all had to stop singing when we got to the part, “happy birthday dear...”
Who is this guy???
“Bill,” the young lady behind the counter barked.
We all started all over and sang “Happy Birthday dear Bill, happy birthday to you...” The crowd all cheered again.
This old soldier waved his red World War ll Veteran ball cap and scooted on, shouting, “I have a party to go to.”
I turned to an guy standing behind me and I said, “Wasn’t that fun?”
He replied, “Huh?”