People In Your Childhood Neighborhood
by Joyce Viti Garofolo
(New Jersey, USA)
At a writers' workshop we were asked to recall people living in our childhood neighborhood and write about one of them.
I remembered an old gentleman who lived on my grandparent's property when I was about four years old. He had worked on my grandfather's farm and had no family. So when the farm downsized my grandfather allowed him to live in a one room dwelling on our ground.
He would walk up to my grandparents' home almost every day and I remember him sitting in their kitchen, not saying anything, just sitting and smoking cigarettes. He was a very short and tiny man, old and shriveled, and he scared me.
We still had one horse left on the farm that my grandfather would saddle up and take me on rides around the property. I loved that horse and those rides and looked forward to those times of prancing around on the horse and sharing time with my grandfather.
My parents had built a home right next door to my grandparents, so I practically lived with them at the time.
One day my grandfather informed me that he was giving the horse to the gentleman who lived on our property because he loved animals and did not have any family and was lonely. I was heartbroken. I cried and cried and demanded to know why. My grandfather was a very gentle and generous person and so he explained to me that this man would love and take care of the horse and that he needed the companionship since he had no one else in his life except his visits to our family.
I finally relented, grudgingly, of course, but understood the reasoning. So we walked the horse down the road and left him, after experiencing the joy on the old gentelmans' face.
From that day forward, this poor old gentleman would continue to visit my grandparents' every day, but along with his presence he brought with him a big, round orange for me. He would say nothing to me, just extend his arm with the orange in his hand out to me to take.
I did not fully understand the reason for this at the time, but my grandfather told me that this was his way of expressing his thanks for me allowing him to have the horse. Somehow he knew that I loved that horse and did not want to give him up. In his own way he wanted to let me know that he was grateful for my understanding.
Whenever my mom, my siblings and I would take him some home cooked meals on holidays, I would take a peek and make sure the horse was well cared for. Sure enough, that horse was well kept. He loved him as much as I did.
I believe that at a young age I was blessed with an experience that helped develop a generous, understanding and caring character within me. I learned that in giving we truly do receive. The lonely old man was given a gift he could care for, as well as showing his appreciation to me through an orange per day, and I learned sharing can bless both the giver and the receiver.