Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)
TITLE: Let's Talk About Eternity
By Leola Ogle
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“Forgive an old man, but what is your name again?” Ken smiled pleasantly at the young man.
“Tyler,” his smile was a bit patronizing.
“Well, Tyler, fire away.”
“So…what year were you born?” Pen poised, tape recorder turned on, Tyler seemed uninterested in this interview.
“Okay. You’re one hundred, a centenarian?”
Ken nodded. Surely a college kid could do the math.
“How exciting to live that long!”
Exciting? His life had had plenty of excitement, but living this long wasn’t one of them. He’d buried a wife, daughter, son and three grandchildren. Julia, his youngest, was still alive, plus grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
Beautiful, brilliant Ruth! They met in college, fell in love and married. She definitely wasn’t the typical young lady of her time. She desired college and career instead of marriage and family, determined to change her world someday. Although she spent years as a college professor, the only world Ruth really changed was his. They’d had sixty-one wonderful years together.
Debra, their eldest, was sixty-four when she succumbed to the ravages of cancer, but the saddest loss was their son, Kendall. Handsome, intelligent, ambitious, he was going to go into politics and change the world. “Like you wanted to, mom,” he would say, with that impish grin. Kendall was in college when it happened, just a simple hiking expedition...the freak accident that ended his young life.
Sighing, Ken concentrated on Tyler’s unenthusiastic questioning. Ken was polite, but felt exhausted. After an hour, Sharon, Ken’s caregiver, insisted they take a break and served coffee.
Cup in hand, Tyler stood to study the array of pictures on the wall. “Sir, this is quite impressive. You actually met these people?” Tyler’s countenance lit up and his impish grin reminded Ken of Kendall.
“Well, since I’m also in those pictures, it’s an obvious assumption I met them. I worked with some great politicians and dignitaries, as well as some real scoundrels.” Ken chuckled softly.
Tyler dropped down on the sofa, leaning forward with excited anticipation. “I heard that you had all the makings of a great politician, even could’ve made a run for the presidency if you wanted to. Any regrets that you didn’t pursue politics?”
Ah…regrets! So much had happened in the century of his life. Having lost everything in the stock market crash, he and his friend, Bruce, scraped money together and headed for Arizona with a dream to rebuild their finances. President Hoover was making an appearance in the small town of Phoenix the day they arrived.
They made their fortune buying farms that lay in ruins, the results of the depression. They got them operational, then sold them to wealthy investors back east. The west was a rugged, exhilarating adventure back then. Unless they donned suits for business purposes, Bruce and Ken adopted the attire of jeans, boots, cowboy shirts and hats.
Ken was involved as Arizona grew and prospered, sitting on more boards, committees, and helping establish more organizations than he could remember. His very persona and stature was one of confidence and authority. He could’ve gone into politics; everyone certainly encouraged him to.
During his life, technology had advanced at a faster pace than any other period in history. When he was born, the primary means of transportation was walking, horses, boats or trains. Not only were automobiles invented in his lifetime, but airplanes and space travel. Television, computers, a man on the moon….man’s capabilities seemed limitless.
“Sir?” Tyler brought him out of his reverie. “Any regrets?”
Blinking back tears, a deep, palpitating ache permeated Ken’s spirit. “I suppose there were times I regretted not pursuing a political career. Mostly, though, I regret the times I spoke harshly to my wife or children because of my own frustrations, or the times I put my work above time with my family.”
His feeble hand pointed at the wall photos. “It’s not those people that I miss. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my Ruth. God, family - that’s where our priorities should be. My deepest regret is that I didn’t share my faith more. I should’ve been more outspoken about it, because in the end, young man, that’s all that really matters.”
Eyes clouded and knowing, he gazed at Tyler with compassion. “Tyler, let’s talk about
*Ken is fictional
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