His name is Mister Billy. He insists he is to be called Mister Billy. He will not reply to any other name and most likely will turn his back to you and leave if you insist on any other name or question why such a name.
His blue jeans are always deep blue, spotless, and with a sharp crease running down the front of each leg of the jeans. He only wears plaid shirts. They are cotton or flannel based on the weather and either blue or red. His hats always have a brim—never wears a cap. Now that I think of it, his hats are always brown and of different styles. He wears black shoes and socks that go all the up his legs for whenever he crosses his legs I never see skin. He has one of those long faces ending in an abrupt and pointed chin. He looks old—much the same as most old men sitting in the park. One of his outstanding traits, among those old men, is he never grunts or nods his head for an answer.
I have never spent much time with Mister Billy, but we have talked and exchanged the pleasantries of the day. He has that soft, pleasant Kentucky accent. I think of it as slightly Southern.
It is Saturday. I was at the park this afternoon, played basketball with friends, and then sat on the bench next to Mister Billy and another old man I’ve seen but have not talked with him. I was sweaty and wanting to cool off before leaving.
I was close enough to hear their conversation. Well, it was mostly a disagreement. Not an argument as they spoke in a casual and polite way. The old man was talking about how wonderful life had been in the “good ole days” and Mister Billy was countering with the wonderful life in “these modern days” as he called them. The old man offered one good thing from the past and Mister Billy offered a similar thing but much improved or better compared to the past.
The old man’s view of yesterdays is the same view I have heard from older relatives and coworkers. I never countered their view since I was much younger than they. I simply listened with respect. I was about to leave to find another bench as I didn’t want to hear it anymore, when Mister Billy spoke.
“All that we use, phones, cars, household gadgets, TV, and all the other modern contraptions in our daily life are way too complicated for us old timers. And so you are right, life was simpler in the ole days.” He stood. “However, you and I are in our 80’s and we are still above ground, so these days are better. If not, we would have died years ago from medical problems. And so I say again, life was simpler in those days—not better. He tipped his hat at the other man and as he turned to walk away he said, “I do miss the simpler days, but grateful for these modern and complicated days.”
I did not get up to leave. I watched Mister Billy walking down the path. I wondered if in another 20 to 30 years, what Mr. Billy called these modern and complicated days, will be my “good ole days.”
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