Telling a story with his eyes
The eyes never lie, so I tell my kids and those who attend our youth group at church.
They can reveal if you're excited, trying to hide something or saddened.
They can tell a story more miraculous and heart-felt than you can imagine.
Such was the case Tuesday, when an elderly farmer stopped by the office.
His walk had been slowed by years of hard work, forcing him to take quick steps in rapid succession to move only a few inches at a time.
But what time had taken away from his gait certainly wasn't lost from his mind. He sat in my office in one of the two blue chairs, his jacket covering his bib overalls. A hat covered his thinning hair.
His face was freshly shaven, and the wear marks around his eyes showed he had proven himself throughout his life by hard work and integrity.
It was his eyes, though, that told the real story. I listened intently to him as he bent my ear about an editorial cartoon he didn't agree with.
"An outright lie," he said in his calm, weathered voice.
I explained how we try to deliver a variety of opinions using columns, editorials and cartoons on the opinion page daily. He understood -- and I think he knew that well before he came into the office on the warm afternoon.
Then he told me a few other concerns, about how he had worked hard to provide for his family throughout his lifetime. How he didn't agree with everything going on in the world today. How he had survived being in tornadoes as a young 'un, and how he helped a neighbor pick up the broken, few pieces of his farmstead left by another twister.
His eyes welled with tears at times. But each time they started to get a little watery, he fought to keep them from overflowing and running down his face.
As we talked, I couldn't help but be reminded of my grandfather, who passed away several years ago. He had lived a long, often-tiring life. He was beat down by the elements and everything else -- just as this man had been.
The gentleman sitting in my office said he probably wasn't going to heaven, his past too rough to overcome. He said he hoped God helped him burn quickly so he didn't have to stand too long in the fire, then let out a small laugh. I assured the gentleman he had plenty of opportunity at salvation yet. He smiled. I think he knew that all along, too.
He was much wiser than he let on, as are most older fellows. But true to his generation, he wasn't about to boast about his knowledge of the world. That's just one of the reasons his group is known as the Greatest Generation.
It was near the end of our conversation when he told me to enjoy life now, because it isn't as easy to do so when you get older. Through his stories and eyes, I could tell he knew from experience.
Then, his eyes proved to me just how amazing a life this gentleman has had. Slowly, almost unnoticeably, a tear started to stream down his left cheek as his eyes reddened one more time.
He lifted his weathered left hand and wiped it away. No more tears flowed.
The story was told.
After a few more words, he reiterated his assessment of the cartoon. He slowly rose to his feet, and I told him I would walk him to the door.
Quick step followed quick step, until he stopped nearly halfway through his journey back to his pickup.
"What do you think is old?" he asked, referring to a person's age.
"I think a person is only as old as they think they are," I answered.
Then he went back to his journey to his pickup.
He got to the curb, and I asked him if he needed help stepping down.
"If I fall, I'll just lay there," he said. "I'll make it, though."
And he did.
Just like his eyes have proven all along.
Nick Schwien is managing editor
of The Hays Daily News.