I was reading about endangered species while standing at a news stall in a supermarket when someone slapped my back.
I turned to look at a white bearded man with small piercing eyes. All I could see was a crack on his face through the white bush when he smiled. Out of respect, I refrained from asking him when last he trimmed his beard. We talked for a while before he shuffled along to continue with his shopping. If ever there was competition of an endangered breed in the country then he would qualify for it.
In his eighty odd years, the gentleman breezed through seven marriages, raised 22 children, drove for five hours to Dubai without knowing he had a broken neck, once raised RO 100,000 for charity, taught 11 schools and colleges. The list does not end there but there is no point to add anymore.
We had a debate about him once and none of us concluded whether he had a glittering life or went through a chain of disasters during his lifetime. The amazing thing is that he still managed to laugh about it while insisting that he was never about proud of it. I watched him talking to another man near the animal food stalls while resting his hand on another person’s shoulder. It was how he greeted people using a gentle touch as a gesture of warmth and friendship.
I know some of his children and none of them inherited any qualities of their father. I am not sure if that was a blessing or not. People like him live for the moment, either for the sheer joy of it or the thrill of facing the consequences along the way.
Two months later, I had to visit him in a hospital after his blood pressure hit the roof. His face was the same colour as his beard, pipes were coming in and out of his body but he still managed to squeeze a smile through his overgrown whiskers.
Though weak, he still managed to place his hand on mine when I thought he couldn’t. It was his way to say that those subtle touches help remove fears, anxieties and even foster good relations, depending on circumstances, between two people.
Three of his surviving wives were with him as well as half a dozen of his children. Later I learned that the other half a dozen were waiting at the corridor. I did not stay long because I felt he had all the love he needed in that big hospital room that looked small because of the presence of his family.
Akif Abdulamir is an Oman based writer