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Lola and I met Alek on our walk last night. I would guess that he might be mid to late forties. Had the most beautiful soft green and welcoming eyes. He was just sitting there with his hat out hoping for a few coins to help him get by. The hat always attracts Lola’s attention. 

As we approached I asked if he was OK with doggies as I knew Lola would soon be nuzzling his lap and wanting some pats. He said “I love dogs.” Reached out and the connection was made. Old friends meeting on the street. 

Somehow Alek brought out the playful nature in Lola that I don’t get to see much of in her advanced age. He gently tousled around with her and she reciprocated with a kiss on his hand. Thank you dear friend. 

I squatted down beside Alek to have a little chat as it was obvious him and Lola needed some more time with one another. I introduced myself and he in turn. We shook hands and I thanked him for playing with Lola. 

He timidly said “I haven’t always been like this, don’t suppose I should share my story with you?” Of course Alek, I would love to hear your story. 

“I was in the Army for years. Originally I came from Romania. I was deployed all over the world. I had a wife and two children. My kids are good kids. They’re going to University. They’re really good kids.”

How did you end up in Victoria?

“When I was first deployed to Canada,  I was in Nova Scotia, then Montreal and eventually here. I drink too much.”

Do you get a pension from the Army?

“Yeah, I get $1200 a month. I’m lucky I have a room. It costs me $600 a month but I have somewhere to keep my things and I can sleep at night.” 

That doesn’t leave you much to live off of does it?

“No, and I drink too much. I’m lonely and don’t know what to do with myself.”

Understandably so.  I think that many people in your situation feel the same. It’s difficult to know how to live in the world after being in the Army for so many years.  You’re doing your best. That’s all you can do. I’m glad you have a room and a place to keep your things. I hope you get enough to eat. 

“Yeah, I do OK. I’m really glad that my kids are in University. My pension covers their education.”

Wow. That’s wonderful Alek. All of those years you put in are allowing your kids to go to University. You must be proud. That’s huge. Good for you. You can feel really proud of yourself for what you have given your children. That’s a really big thing.

Do you ever see them?

“Not much. Well sometime they see me. That’s hard. They’re good kids, they don’t drink or do drugs.”

Well, you can be proud. You have given them an opportunity to do all sorts of things with their lives.

Lola and Alek are still playfully connected at this point. I notice Lola’s interest suddenly shifts to Alek’s side. Someone has left a container of Chinese food beside him. Lola has snatched a piece of barbecue pork out of the container and is blissfully chomping it down.

Oh no! I’m sorry. Lola has gotten into your food. 

“Ha, ha! I don’t mind. She can have a bite.” 

Thank you Alek. That’s very kind of you. It looks like Lola is starting to get restless. We should probably get walking again. I really enjoyed our visit. Maybe Lola and I will see you again? Take good care. 

“Do you live here? Thank you for the visit. I sure hope so.” 

Good friends part, having shared a meal and a loving connection. 

Those soft green eyes, filled with stories that ache to be shared, won’t be left behind.  A life of Service.