Growing up, Mr. Jenkins always lived down the street. My parents always told me not to bother him. They never gave me a reason, they just told me not to leave the man be. I walked by his house every morning on my way to school and every morning he was sitting on his porch in his rocking chair next to an empty matching rocking chair. He was never doing anything, like reading the paper, just sitting watching the few cars that drove down our street go by. He just became a fixture in the neighborhood for me, like the big maple tree across from the elementary school.
Then I was home from college one holiday season and my mom asked me to take the dog for a walk. While I was out I realized that Mr. Jenkins was still sitting on his porch, still doing nothing but watching the cars go by. I turned the dog back to my house and decided to ask my mom the question that had been haunting me for years.
"Mom, why does Mr. Jenkins always just sit outside? Even when it's freezing and bitterly cold he just sits out there in his rocking chair." She gave me a small but sad smile, put down the dishcloth in her hand and sunk down in a kitchen chair.
"Come sit." She waited for me to join her at the table and then continued." Jim's wife, Claire, left him a long time ago."
"Okay, but why does he just sit outside waiting for her?" I was deeply confused. People leave their significant others every day, but what does that have to do with him sitting on the porch by himself.
"Claire and Jim were high school sweethearts. They got married as soon as they turned eighteen, saved all their money to buy that little house. They tried forever to have kids, but they just couldn't. It almost killed them both. But, then one of their friends died in a car accident. She had a little boy and after his mother passed he had no family that would take him. He was about to go into foster care until Jim and Claire offered to adopt him." This was such a sad story but, I was still confused.
"Mom, that's moving and everything, but why does he sit on the porch?"
"Calm down. Calm down. I'm getting there. Anyway, so they were all a perfect little family. Tommy was getting ready to graduate when the planes hit the towers, so after graduation, he took off for the Marines and never came back. Then, Claire left a week after the funeral and no one has seen her since."
I was crying now, this was so awful.That was horrible. He had been through so much. His only child dies then his wife leaves him.
"But, wait. Why does he sit outside all the time? He always looks like he's waiting for something. Is he waiting for his son?" My mom smiled sadly.
"No, he's waiting for Claire."
"But why? She left him, right?"
"Going through life we always hear, 'If you love something let it go. If it's meant to be it'll come back.' But, that doesn't make it hurt any less. The possibility that it may not be meant doesn't make you miss something you love any less." After that she got up and went upstairs.
Finally, I understood why Mr. Jenkins sits on his porch. He sits there waiting for his wife every day because he misses her, because he loves her so much that he allowed her to leave with the hope that she would come back to him one day.
A few months later, I came back to visit my parents and Mr. Jenkins was not sitting on his porch. I don’t know why he was't in is rocking chair on that porch, but I like to think that Claire came back.