“Yes,” Walt mused, “that watercolor class pretty nearly saved my life.” He lightly stroked the smooth wood frame of the picture he had painted as a gift for his daughter Therese. His eyes stared absently at the scene before him, but his thoughts were fixed upon another time.
He saw himself as he was six months earlier, a lonely “seventy-something” man, who had been widowed several months previously. He missed Joyce, with whom he had celebrated 50 years of marriage just three months before she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Months of focusing on caring for her in her illness had ended, and now he had nothing with which to occupy himself. Walt wasn’t a TV watcher or a book reader. He’d never been much of a gardener either, and had no close friends in this town where he and Joyce had moved a few years before. He felt he was dying of boredom, and speculated despondently that he would silently and unobtrusively ebb like the tide, a little more each day until he simply faded away.
One particular afternoon came into sharper focus before his mind. He had been sitting on the couch in his too-quiet house and had idly picked up the small town weekly. He’d turned the pages slowly, glancing at a few items here and there, until something suddenly had caught his interest. It was in a local events section, and was under the heading “Senior Center News.” It announced an upcoming watercolor class to be taught every Wednesday morning.
Walt hadn’t thought much about drawing or painting for many years, although as a young boy, he’d often sketched cartoon-type characters to entertain himself and his friends. On a ship off Okinawa during WWII, Walt illustrated some of the ship newsletters with his drawings; and after getting out of the Navy, he’d attended art school in Sacramento for a year. He’d gotten a job after that, married Joyce, and had six children, so there wasn’t much time for his art; but once in awhile on camping trips, he’d take his paints and easel along to do some “plein-air” scenes of majestic mountains and deep forests or sunny, sandy ocean beaches.
Walt’s eldest daughter, Therese, had been begging on and off for years for him to paint a picture for her, and he kept promising he would someday…but “someday” never seemed to come. The inner motivation, the desire, just wasn’t there.
That afternoon, though, rereading the newspaper notice, he decided he might like to stroll down to the Senior Center on Wednesday and check this class out.
“After all,” he reminded himself, “I’ve nothing else to do.”
Wednesday morning as he had awakened, he sensed eager anticipation toward the new day--something he hadn’t experienced for months. He got up, showered, and dressed carefully, then sat down for a bite of breakfast.
As he sauntered down the hill to the main part of town, he heard birds chirping in the trees and relished the still-warm autumn sun on his bare head. It felt good to be going somewhere, and he quickened his step.
In the large room at the Senior Center where the class was being held, he found himself sitting next to a very attractive woman about his age. As he glanced over her way, she smiled invitingly and announced, “Hi, I’m Billie! Who might you be?”
They had become friendly right away, and after a few weeks they began seeing each other outside of class. Billie had Walt over for home-cooked meals, and he discovered that he was hungry again after not caring much either way about food for quite awhile. They went shopping, played cribbage and pinochle for hours, painted, took day trips, and talked. Their conversations were what Walt enjoyed the most—having someone to talk to and someone to listen to. He had missed companionship more than he’d realized.
Jolted back to the present by the ringing of the telephone, he set the painting down and walked over to the kitchen counter.
“Hello?” he spoke into the receiver.
“Hey, Walt,” Billie’s warm voice greeted him. “I’m thinking of making myself some lunch. Why don’t you come on over and eat with me? I hope turkey sandwiches and minestrone soup are okay with you. “ Then she laughed, “After lunch, I feel like beating you at a couple games of cribbage, so bring your board along!”
Smiling, Walt hung up. “Yes,” he reflected again gratefully, “that watercolor class pretty nearly saved my life.”
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