Goodbye, Mister Man.

She was not there today. With her boy and the little girl. From the seat at the lake where I sat watching the ducks and the water hens I would have sensed her out of the corner of my eye coming toward me. The children holding her hand; one on each side and that is what I had noticed that first time.

I’m sure you have noticed the ways mothers hold the hand of a child. The many different ways. Don’t let go of my hand or you will get lost. Or there is the ‘you belong to me and don’t let anyone think otherwise’. Sometimes there is that hard, harsh holding that will threaten to rip the little person’s arm out of its socket. It’s a punishment for being born, a payment for having burdened a previously simple life. Or an anger that is directed at the father of the children who is no longer there for one reason or another.

With her there was nothing of that.

There was a simple gentle calmness not only in her but in the feeling that flowed from her into the demeanour of the two children.

I don’t know her name or if she has a family other than the two children. But on every separate occasion when I saw her I was overcome by a sense of gentle content and sufficiency. In the three of them. In me there is a sadness that I don’t quite understand.

We got to talking after a while. Mostly the little girl. She wore her hair cut short – for convenience – and her clothes looked as if her brother had worn them before. But there was no mistaking the little girl. The first time she came up and asked me what I was looking at in the water.

“I’m looking at the ducks.”

“Are they your ducks?”

“No. They are everybody’s”

She looked at the ducks quite intently and then said, pointing to one, “That one can be yours Mummy. And that one there is Billy’s and that one is yours, Mr Man,” she said addressing me.

I asked her which one she wanted because there were only three and she smiled and said, “I can share yours.”

I am not sure if the lump in my throat was obvious but during that time the mother said nothing but smiled. Gently.

As the days went by I would make a point of sitting on the same seat and the little girl would release her mother’s hand and run up and sit next to me.

“Good morning Mr Man. How is our duck today?”

And her brother would run around and chase seagulls and the mother, gentle and quiet would offer a few words now and then. She allowed her daughter to do all the talking.

A couple of days ago the little girl stood in front of me, her arms akimbo, and declared, “You weren’t here yesterday, Mr Man.”

I explained that I had taken my daughter for a drive.

“What is a daughter, Mr Man?” and I explained that all girls are someone’s daughter.

“Are you a daughter?” she asked, turning to her mother.

“No darling. But you are my daughter.”

The little girl did not see the error in her mother’s answer. But I did and she smiled a rueful smile in my direction.

Yesterday they stopped at my bench and looked at our ducks.

“Mummy has a speech to make, so you must pay attention Mr Man.”

The woman looked at me quietly. “Thank you for looking after our ducks,” she said with a smile. “We won’t see you again. The children miss their father and we are going home.”

Then the little girl gave me a small bunch of yellow flowers that she had picked from the grass and the little boy, all grown up and mature shook my hand and said goodbye.

I picked up my camera and the woman looked at me and slowly shook her head. “When we leave,” she said and leant toward me and kissed me fleetingly on the cheek and they turned away. The little girl let go her mother’s hand and ran back and kissed me.

“Goodbye Mr Man. Please look after the ducks.”

And I took a photograph as they left.

20 thoughts on “Goodbye, Mister Man.

  1. Oh my! This is so touching! I think it is my favorite of your stories so far. Would that we all could posses that “sense of gentle content and sufficiency.” Would that we all had the delightful trust and generous spirit of that little girl! Oh, Mr. Man, you were quite blessed! I love the picture of them – but felt a sense of loss and sadness as they walked away. I want them to return tomorrow with a kind and gentle daddy.


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