I was sitting on the veranda when I first saw him on a sunny morning about three years ago; a small man, slightly stooped with age, impeccably dressed in pants, tweed jacket, proper shoes and tweed cap carrying his Eco friendly bag walking towards the local supermarket.
Over the next couple of years our relationship developed from “good mornings” to the much deeper “lovely day for a walk” comments once a week or so. That was it, I didn’t know his name or where he lived, I just knew it was further around the corner than us. He was only a part of my life in the 900 metres between the corner and the supermarket.
It was rounding that corner one Anzac Day morning on my bike I encountered him, immaculately dressed as always, but this time in uniform, with rows of medals on his chest. “Good morning” he said, with a big smile, those bright eyes twinkling as always as we passed each other. I remembered that our local service was held mid-morning at the RSL, not at dawn. Ah, so he’s a veteran; that explains the sharp dress sense!
It didn’t matter what the weather, the little old guy with the bright twinkly eyes and the smile would make the trip to the supermarket but it was clear he didn’t drive anymore. However, one day about a year ago, he got some wheels, a walker, the type with the little padded seat. It didn’t stop his supermarket walk; he just hung his bag over the handle and carried on.
Life went on as normal, Christmas came and went. I realised that I hadn’t seen the little old guy with the walker… That’s what we called him in our house. I began to get worried and actively kept an eye out for him, I missed him. Perhaps he’s moved, gone into assisted housing, or I’ve just not seen him I reasoned with myself.
Anzac Day 2015 rolled around and I dragged Crazy Cat Boy off to the local service, partially to pay my respects but mostly to see if he was there. He struck me as someone who would be in the thick of it, helping out and joking with his mates. I was unaccountably sad when I couldn’t find him.
Last month I clicked on the latest E-newsletter from a local community to see those familiar twinkly eyes and smile looking back at me. The headline read “Vale Arch”. Two paragraphs summed up an amazing life of service to his county and a love of adventure that seems to have spanned the 87 years of his life.
So now I know his name, it’s a shame (or is it shameful?) that I didn’t know it sooner. So goodbye Arch, you’ll be missed. I just hope that someday someone will feel that way about me.
I started this as a piece on personal branding, but it took another direction, I hope it does Arch justice.