You ramble a lot, the old man said. And I must have blushed because his wife reached over and patted me on the arm. "Never mind him," she said, then whispered to me in one of those loud lady whispers that I guess he wasn't supposed to be able to hear, "He's just an old man."
"I can hear you," he said and shifted on the bench where the three of us were sitting, outside the hospital on a clear afternoon. I had stopped to rearrange my armload of folders after one had decided to slide away. The little couple came up a few seconds later, her with a big quilted purse and him with a brown, wooden cane with a white handle, and asked if they could share a spot while they waited for their daughter to pull up the car. I was happy to scoot.
Her bottom had barely gotten situated before the little lady asked if I was the one who writes for the newspaper because she thought that was me but she wasn't sure and I made her laugh sometimes. I said yes and thank you and it was nice of her to say so.
That's when he told me I ramble a lot and she told me not to pay any attention to him.
"Let me finish," said the man, and we both were quiet so he could talk. "I was going to say that you ramble a lot but rambling is good if you've got something to say. You're a good rambler."
I told him thank you, I think, and for a minute or so more we talked about the plastic, hot pink bangle bracelet the lady was wearing and how their 3-year-old great-granddaughter gave it to her one afternoon when she was at their house because her mama had to go to the grocery store and, bless her heart, their great-granddaughter would pitch a fit sitting in that grocery buggy so she came to their house, instead.
"She wanted to paint my toenails," the man said and we all laughed and his wife said she might just better check his toenails because she wouldn't be surprised if they were pink right now underneath those sensible black shoes because he spoiled that little girl like nobody's business. He shushed her up and told her she best just mind her own business, thank you very much, because if he wanted to spoil his great-grandbaby then, by God, he would spoil her.
A car pulled up to the curb about then, and I guessed it was their daughter because the lady stood up and situated her big quilted bag on her shoulder and the man pulled himself up by his cane and straightened out his britches leg. I stood up, too, and told them it was nice talking to them and to watch out for little girls wanting to paint his toenails.
He opened the car door and leaned down to say something to his daughter.
"This here's the girl who rambles a lot," he said to her and I smiled and gave her a little wave and she smiled back. Then he lowered himself into the car and closed the door, but not before he looked up at me.
"It's OK to ramble as long as you got something to say," he said. Then he closed the door and the car pulled away from the curb. I clutched my folders to my chest and smiled to myself at the thought of a little old man with pink painted toenails underneath sensible black shoes. Because I suddenly realized that he never said that he didn't let her paint them.
I best just mind my own business.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.