This morning, while putting my groceries in the pickup a man near my age who also could have used a haircut and a beard trim pushed his cart nearby and began loading his groceries. On the strap on the back of his cap were the words “Navy Retired”.
“Have you visited the carrier tied up at Corpus Christie?” I called to him.
“Yes, I have,” he replied. pausing as though he expected me to say more. And I did.
“I was in the air force, After visiting that carrier I came away thinking I might have missed something,” I added.
“You did. I was a submariner,” he said.
We shook and went our separate ways. But our conversation lingered. I remembered Al Ricci, a friend I’d met in a late-night coffee shop a decade ago. Al had been a submariner. After World War II he earned an aeronautical engineering degree and retired from Northrup.
Al was older than me, perhaps by 20 years though he did not look or act it. We met often and when weather conditions permitted, we sometimes sat at an outside table at a Carl Jr.
Then one evening a stranger rang me on the phone. He said he was Al Ricci’s son. “My dad passed away, you know,” he said.
“No! I didn’t know!”
We didn’t talk long, but before we ended our conversation he said: “While going through my dad’s things I came across a book on when the words “important people” was written. Your name number was included in the list.”