Author: Keegan McChesney
It all started with a note.
“Hi Oxy-ite! David Wigglesworth, Occidental Class of ’50,” the note said.
The note was left on the windshield of my mom’s car. My mom was across Lake Washington from our Seattle home to enjoy asunny summer day with a friend. The day included a trip to the exceptional Kirkland Public Library, one of my mom’s favorites due to the natural light and spacious environment.
Dave is also fond of the spacious, well-lit library and was in there that day enjoying a good book. This is something we would soon bond over.
On his way out of the library, an Occidental College bumper sticker caught Dave’s eye. Not knowing many folks in the area, he scribbled down a note and left it on the windshield of the car, wondering what would come of his inquiry with this fellow Oxy-ite.
I found out about the note a few hours later. I had been river rafting in the Rocky Mountains when I looked at my phone and saw a peculiar picture message from my mom. I was both puzzled and excited about the note; I knew no details aside from the the fact that I had been contacted by an Occidental class of ’50 alum.
When I returned home from my trip, I wrote an email to this mystery man. My email consisted of a brief bio about myself and inquiry into Dave’s life. Not knowing what would come of my email, I was for some reason anxious to learn more about this man.
“Hi Keegan: I wondered if I would get a response and hoped that I would. Thank you for writing. As you could assume from my note, I am somewhat ancient,” Dave’s email said.
We decided to meet for lunch at Hector’s in Kirkland at 2:30. I left my house feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement. I left with plenty of time to spare, but the 520 bridge across Lake Washington was closed. Panic set in, and I sped my way to an alternative route. My previous feelings were subsumed by dread of the possibility that I might be about to stand up an 85-year-old stranger. In a cruel turn of events, parking proved to be just as difficult – I ended up parking five blocks away and running to Hector’s restaurant.
I caught my breath and looked out for a man that fit the “5-foot-8 with minimum hair and glasses” and “blue shirt” description he gave me in an email. There he was, fitting his description perfectly. The stress diminished and the nervous excitement returned. We made eye contact, wondering if this was the face behind the emails. I apologized for my tardiness and was relieved for his genuine forgiveness. Even if his hands were wrinkly, lacking the strength they once must have had, his sure grip conveyed an air of wisdom and capability that instantaneously drew me in. The anxiety melted away and after a single handshake and a few apologetic words, I already trusted Dave.
We agreed on a table outside and took our seats. I had no idea what to say. The ice broke when we both ordered eggs benedict: his crab, mine salmon. This small coincidence dissolved the 66-year-age gap. Conversation began to flow more naturally between the bites of benedict as we caught up on each others lives; while I had 19 years to elaborate on, he had 85. The speaking ratio was divided accordingly.
The conversation carried on. We found we shared a love of soccer and passion for learning. Dave told me about his extensive library back in Houston, Texas, with which he regretfully had to part. We both have a certain fondness for books. Neither of us wanted the conversation to end. We ordered coffee after our meal and continued to occupy our sun-drenched table. Age was much less apparent than initially expected. We actually had a ton of mutual interests. Dave epitomizes the life-long learner that is the hallmark of liberal arts education; I look forward to a similar life.
After our first meeting we kept a consistent email conversation going throughout the next few weeks. I wanted to hang out with my new 86-year-old friend Dave again.
A few weeks later, we planned to meet at the Kirkland Park and Ride. This time I made sure to check the bridge status to ensure I was on time. On the way to pick up Dave I was bumping Chance the Rapper’s new mixtape. I decided to turn the music off for the sake of conversation and to leave music sharing for later.
When we pulled up to the stadium, Dave whipped out his handicapped placard, unashamed. We didn’t bother with being awkward about the age gap. Proud of his age and pleased with his parking privileges, Dave was as amused with himself as I was. Together, with Dave in his usual button-down and myself in Sounder’s green, we navigated the stadium to our seats. At times I felt worried for Dave, with all of the rambunctious fans and flights of stairs. But when I would glance at him, I realized he wasn’t going to slow me down. Dave was sprightly as ever.
A zero to zero first half left us hungry for both goals and food. We went for Asian-fusion. Once again we ordered the same thing – this time a stir fry sandwich and Coke.
The second half picked up; I jumped, screamed and hugged Dave when the Sounders tied the game 1-1, while Dave gingerly clapped and smiled with pleasure. I could only hope he had as much fun as I did.
I returned home to find another email from Dave.
“K: Thanks for a great day! I really enjoyed the game but more importantly, I enjoyed being with you and your refreshing spirit. Thanks for taking me to the game and spending time with an old alum,” the message said.
Dave was new to the city and had few friends in the area. Just two days before my flight back to Occidental, I took the honor of showing him around as only a true Seattleite could. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to say goodbye to my city and my new pal.
I took him to many of my favorite Seattle spots, chauffeuring and narrating the tour while Dave jotted down the places to come back to visit again. Our first stop: my favorite ice cream shop where, of course, we both ordered salted caramel on a waffle cone. We headed to the Sorrento Hotel, the oldest hotel in Seattle. We ate lunch and, to our relief, didn’t order the same thing – we agreed that was getting a little too weird.
The day came to a close and so too did our summer together. It’s interesting trying to reflect on the experience since our friendship is still alive and well. In the same fashion as before, Dave and I keep up our consistent email thread. He’s a great digital pen pal. Dave sends me quotes almost daily, and I often let them guide my day. Sometimes he’ll share with me a good joke or story, and I am reminded of another similarity: our love of laughter.
A bumper sticker is a good reason to make a new friend as any. Dave taught me the value of improbable friendship. Age is truly just a number; the bond we found through Occidental is strong enough to bring together generations.
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