• The Old Man On The Rue
  • Jean Burman
  • australian artistfrancejean burmanparisparis sojourntravel
The Old Man On The Rue

One day... walking down Rue de Grenelle... we passed an elderly man clinging to the stone wall that lined the narrow street. He was edging his way so slowly you could scarcely see his progress.

With one hand on the wall... and feeling as much as seeing... he inched his way along the street stopping often to centre himself and regroup and recharge the ancient batteries propelling him slowly forward.  

The first time I saw him I wondered.  

What was his story?

What was this well dressed elderly gentleman doing here?  

How on earth was he going to get home before dark [not to mention before the next shower of rain]?

As I cautiously passed… close now… because the footpath along Rue de Grenelle is like that... he gazed up.  The softness of his bluer than blue eyes took me aback. He looked a little quizzically at me for taking the time to step around him and seemed surprised to have encountered us at all… but the softness of appreciation showed.. not so much in any kind of tangible expression… but in the gentleness of his gaze and the questioning in those eyes that had long since stopped expecting a response from passers by.

My instinct was to help. But something about him. Some sort of dignified ownership of his situation stopped me.  He had this. He did. And part of me understood this.  To intervene… to assist… to attempt to control would have diminished him.  I got it. And I understood.

A little further down the Rue I looked back to see if he was okay… and he was. 

We saw him several times over the next few weeks… always around the same spot… there edging his way along the wall.  

After a time my sadness dissipated as I realised that he didn't need our help.  He was okay.  This was his thing.  He needed to do this every day just to feel the aliveness in his step. The aliveness that all of us must keep and maintain as the encroaching years descend.  

I admired that.

And I learned so much from it.

Never give up. Never stop doing.  

Strive as hard as you can to keep the spark alive.

The sharp clear focus of his soft blue eyes I shall never forget. 

  • Jean Burman
  • australian artistfrancejean burmanparisparis sojourntravel

Comments on this post ( 4 )

  • Sep 13, 2014

    Dear Jean, I loved the story of the old man. He would have been a stubborn, determined young man. I could identify with your old man as I age, I am more dertermined than ever to -prove that I can still do……..

    — Lynne Smith

  • Sep 13, 2014

    Dear Lynne there are lessons here for all of us I think :) I love it that you are a swimmer who continues to compete and a woman who doesn’t baulk at anything. Go you I say. Go you! I too hope to maintain the rage. My mum sure did so maybe it’ll be there in the genes ;) lotsa love x

    — Jean Burman

  • Oct 06, 2014

    I particularly liked the part about his soft eyes not expecting any response from passers by as well as your intuitive response to not help him…he really didn’t need it. As we get older we can see the responses to our presences diminishing. As if we are slowly disappearing – being rubbed out by an invisible eraser.

    — Nancy Lee Galloway

  • Oct 07, 2014

    Thanks for your thoughtful response Nancy :) I guess if you’ve cared for oldies you tend not to see them as disappearing but yes the world at large does [sadly] more and more. Heaven help us tho because the resources of the elderly are so enriching and rewarding. One of my most favourite oldies was well into her 90s and still dancing in her stockinged feet around the piano at midnight… I loved and admired her capricious spirit so much and shall always remember her that way. I can only hope I’ll be able to emulate that kind of joy when its my turn to dance!!! :)

    — Jean Burman

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