This was originally posted on July 6, 2010.
I watched him slowly navigate the stone stairs leading to the door of the Gallery, one hand tightly gripping the handrail for support. He looked to be in his mid to late 70's, although he could have been much older than that.
He was looking for a certain gallery he'd visited in the area years ago with his wife. A bright smile lit up his face as he described the sculpture they'd purchased there. He was looking for something similar in a smaller version and, as we chatted, I got the sense that it was intended as a gift for someone, his wife, perhaps, or a son or grandchild back home.
I brought out a few works of art for his consideration and, every once in a while, I'd ask a question that garnered the response, "Oh, you'd have to ask my wife about that."
He made his selection quickly and then asked me for a restaurant recommendation where he might enjoy a good meal for lunch. I suggested a great place conveniently located directly across the street.
After that, he wanted to have some ice cream. Where could he get that?
Delighted that everything was within easy walking distance and confident that his 'old legs' would get him there, he went off to enjoy a bite to eat, giving me time to wrap his purchase and get the supporting documents ready.
A couple of hours later, he slowly made his way back up our stairs again.
"How was lunch?" I asked.
"Excellent!" he said and with a satisfied smile on his face, he added, "I had some great ice cream, too!"
Clearly in good spirits, he finalized his transaction with me and as he was preparing to leave the premises, I asked him if he was heading home now.
"Well. This is a bit of a memory trip for me." he said.
And, then his face crumpled.
With a voice that broke with emotion, he fought back tears that threatened to spill over his cheeks as he told me that his wife had recently passed away. His journey, he told me, would take him into the mountains next.
The penny dropped.
He was recreating a trip he and his wife had taken together years ago. Right down to ice cream for dessert.
Had it been their honeymoon? The first trip they'd enjoyed after the kids had all left home?
My heart simultaneously broke for him and celebrated the love he obviously still felt for this woman with whom he'd shared a life.
He hurried out of the gallery, awkwardly fumbling for the door, his eyesight misted with tears.
As I watched him make his unsteady way down the stairs to the street, one hand firmly gripping the handrail for support, I imagined the other one gently holding the hand of his beloved who still walked beside him.