Divinity in Veterans
Today, Allie delivered three bouquets to sweet women at Autumn Care. One held a baby doll and struggled to find her words, but she had beautiful eyes behind her thick glasses. The others were asleep, so we were extra quiet upon entering their rooms. Their eyes never even opened.
After our nursing home visit, we ran an errand at Lowes. While waiting to speak to someone about scheduling an appliance install, we overheard happy barking. Turning, we saw several people gathered around a small dog wearing a rainbow lei. We learned her name was Roxy, and her owner was Mr. Jim.
Mr. Jim was saying, “How many children do you see, Roxy? I see three. Can you count them?” And with that, Roxy barked — once… twice… three times. Then we all clapped and cheered.
“How many little boys do you see, Roxy?” And with a tap on her nose, she barked two times. (There were indeed two little boys gathered to watch.)
“Wow!” we all exclaimed. Then — “How many little girls do you see, Roxy? I see one. Can you count the girls?” And right on command, Roxy barked one time. Allie clapped the loudest.
Soon, the others said goodbye, and Allie, who’d been standing back a bit, asked me if she could pet Roxy. I reminded her to ask Mr. Jim, which she did — then knelt to be eye-to-eye with the happy dog. “Can I give her a treat?” Allie inquired.
“Let’s get her to do a trick first,” Mr. Jim replied. “Roxy, how many girls are here now? I see two. Can you count them?” — to which, Roxy replied with two staccatoed barks. (I was elated to have been included in the “girl” category.)
Noticing that Mr. Jim was wearing an U.S. Army cap, I said, “Oh, you’re a veteran. Thank you so much for your service.”
He looked at me then with the watery eyes of age, and it was as if all of Lowes fell away. “Yes, I was in the U.S. Army. I missed the bloodshed of the Big War because I was in my late teens and working; but after the war ended — in about 1947 and again in 1949 — I went to Italy to help bring our boys home.”
He paused a moment, lost in thought — then, “I’m ninety-one next week. I’ve had my share of ups and downs. Cancer, for example, and some surgeries over the years. Yes, I certainly wear some scars, but not all scars can be seen.” He tapped his heart.
“What have I told you about scars?” I asked Allie, who was still petting Roxy. “Every scar has a… a story, right?”
It was Mr. Jim who answered. “That’s right. Every single one.”
We talked a bit more — me and Allie and Mr. Jim, who was probably older than the three women we’d delivered flowers to only an hour earlier. Yet, at almost 91, he was clear-minded, still full of the things of life — a storehouse of memories from the past, as well as a genuine appreciation for each day’s opportunities. He admitted that not every day is good, adding that he’s just thankful for those when he can still get out and meet people and share a story or two.
“Thank you for sharing with us,” I said before leaving. “And for sharing Roxy. She’s really smart.”
“And sweet,” Allie added, giving her a gentle pat.
“And she’s adopted,” Mr. Jim proudly added.
Allie smiled ear to ear. “Me, too!” she exclaimed, giving Roxy a kindred scratch behind her ears, as if to say, “I understand.”
As Allie and I turned to leave, Roxy barked two times for “goodbye.”
“Mommy, we met a veteran and his adopted dog,” Allie said thoughtfully.
And who would have thought that an installation errand would have instilled so much upon our hearts?
Delivered so much joy?
Reminded us to count our blessings rather than merely bark out complaints?
Encouraged us to share our stories, even when they’re shaped like scars?
Today we met at least one hero.
And I venture to say that each of the elderly ladies at Autumn Care was a hero too — as veteran mothers, teachers, nurses, or volunteers, perhaps.
Even meeting an adopted doggie named Roxy reminded Allie that, when God orders our steps, there are no coincidences…
Just Divine moments when — if our eyes and ears are wide open to possibility — we get to see God in the faces of others.
Even when their eyes are closed, watery with age.