Have you seen these old men?

They walked in the square, slowly, some with longer steps, reminding me of a frugal old friend called ‘long-steps’ because he wanted to preserve his shoes’ rubber heels. I’m sure they were resolving issues. They stopped often, turned, grabbed an arm, tapped a chest, gave a hug, smiled, frowned. They looked at each other, oblivious to those around them. They were the senior men of the community, and they were out for their morning walk.

Salamanca, Spain

I was vacationing in Spain and I saw them. I have seen them in other European towns. They walk noiselessly on the 500-year-old pavements surrounded by buildings just as old; buildings that observed so many walks, so many happenings, so much history.

They arrived at the church. No, they did not go in. I heard that the older European men were not great churchgoers. They stopped. They turned, heading back to where they started. This day was a bit cool, so they wore short outer jackets with a sweater, a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie. Clean-shaven, dressed well, shoes polished. Some wore hats, silvery white hair peeking from under the brims. This was their town, and I suspect they had never strayed from it. They were pleased and proud.

On one cold day in Italy, I watched as they entered a coffee shop (bar) at the corner of the square in a medieval town and sat until lunch time. I wanted to sit with them. I wanted to listen to their Italian, perhaps even speak a bit. But I did not. It would have been an intrusion, not only on them but also on my thoughts of them. I did not want anything to change. It was too good to observe. They laughed. I laughed with them.

Sometimes one of them ‘sped’ by alone, dressed in a suit and overcoat, in polished formal shoes taking small steps, likely on a mission … pay a bill, buy some milk, go to the post office? Or maybe he was a professor going to teach his class.

No one hurried or was hurried. They were simply in their town, in their personal paradise, old men living out their days, at peace, in harmony.