“PaPa always says what he ‘can do he will do.’”
I understood more than little Scarlett knew.
When the old man returned, I noticed a faded tattoo on his arm.
What I could make out read “101 Airborne D-Day 1944.”
To me that said it all.
This man lived in a generation that took pride in doing their part, and even though racked with pain, he would keep his pride.
I watched him struggle with the box of grapefruit. What would have been easy for me was very painful for the old man. Though I wanted to help, just a glance from Scarlett told me no.
Finally, when he was through, he sat back down beside me.
“How is the trucking business these days?” he asked.
“Oh, about the same, it has its ups and downs.”
“I remember when I was growing up, all I thought about was driving one of those big trucks.” He smiled as his eyes darted back and forth.
I could only imagine where his mind’s eye was taking him at that moment.
“Did you ever get to drive one?”
“Yes I did. I hauled produce up and down the coast until I enlisted in the Army. Matter of fact, I had my father drive me to the Army enlistment station in an old Mack Truck,” he said, pointing to mine. “That was July 1943, and I haven’t been in one since.”
I noticed a sad look on his face as his head bowed toward his feet. I wanted to ask why he had not driven a truck since 1943. Then it hit me, and I was glad I didn’t ask. It was easy to see that his war injury had left him scared and handicapped and unable to work in his chosen profession.
“I’m glad you stopped here today. I don’t get to talk to many drivers anymore.”
“Why is that?”
“There seems to be hundreds of trucks passing by every hour. They all go to those big truckstops now. I don’t think they like pulling those big shiny trucks on my dirt lot.”
I settled back into my lawn chair, thinking of how much we owe this old man and many like him that gave us the freedom to work and live as we please. As I looked around at the modern new truckstops with acres of pavement and three-story motels and strips of restaurants on both sides of the street, I couldn’t help make the comparison in my mind between them and this old man and his rickety old fruit stand with its hand-painted signs and old rusty pickup truck.
Something just wasn’t right about this picture.
“Well, they have changed a lot. Would you like to look inside mine?” I offered.
He took me up on my offer and made his way up into the cab.
“They sure have changed. You boys have got it made nowadays. Son, you got more hood than I ever had truck.”
He laughed as he climbed down from the truck. What he said rang true. With all the hassle I go through, it is still better than it’s ever been. He thanked me as he hobbled back to his fruit stand.
As I stood there with a million things running through my mind, little Miss Scarlett brought me back down to Earth.
“Don’t you think you might need some oranges and grapefruit before you go?”
I couldn’t help but say yes. At that moment, she could have sold me some oceanfront property in Iowa.