This is the tale of the toughest man I ever met, a 90 something who fell off a ladder. Yes, a ladder. Why a 90 year old would be on a ladder defies the imagination as well as gravity, but understandable knowing that he also still rides a motorcycle. He was in amazing shape, a wiry muscular frame and sharp as a tack. With piercing blue eyes, he saw everything and used everyone's name.
The fall dislocated his shoulder. After a difficult series of manipulations with minimal medication, at his request, he shrugged the whole thing off like it was no big deal. He was chatty and engaging. He wore a WWII service cap. My partner asked him about his service, and he told us the where and when he had served. Her recounted the story of his most memorable WW2 experience like it happened yesterday, and not over 70 years ago.
"You see a lot of things. You think about them every day".
I was riveted as I rested my arms on the side rails and leaned in to catch every word. B, my partner, was on the other side of the cot, equally attentive. Without taking my eyes off him I slowly reached my hand toward the monitor to silence the alarm as he quietly told about his closest call, an explosion that destroyed his hearing but left him otherwise physically intact.
"The other man (note he did not refer to him as the enemy) was as close as you and I were. I had my gun. He had a grenade. We looked each other in the eye, that look... we each knew what the other was thinking. In that second we both knew that he had to kill himself to kill me. As he opened his hand, I launched myself backwards. It was miraculous, I came out of it not hurt...but with a lot of him on me."
How do you get past something like that?
You live to age 90, being grateful every day for your life, and living it to the fullest by riding motorcycles and falling off ladders. And teaching life lessons.