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Mort: A Story

Today a seventy-seven year-old man named Mort came into the bookstore and spoke straight to my heart. Decades ago this now gentle, lovely, dare I say, spitirtual man was an angry and deeply unhappy man. He was also an alcoholic. Today, retired, he says he finds his best places to meditate inside the darkness of a good movie theatre (kindred spirit much?), and particularly enjoys movies that have both love and a sense of magic. "The Natural" might be his favourite all-time movie. I had to admit I hadn't seen really seen it (the time with the family at the drive-in, when it was the second flick on the bill and I was about eight and fast asleep within minutes of the flick's start in the back of our Chev station wagon doesn't count, does it?). But Mort and I had no trouble agreeing on "Field of Dreams" and "It's a Wonderful Life" as movies that were in both of our top-ten.

Mort not a man afraid to share his love of the sentimental. Ah the benefits of age. (I'm getting there, slooooowly.)

I told Mort my simpleton theory, that when I look to older men I see two types: the grumpy and the gentle/sweet. Before I even got to mentioning the types Mort stopped me, said he knew what I was going to say.

When he was young, when he drank, he described how he used to carry this "ball of anger" in his belly. It wasn't about the drink. It never is. He had to go deeper. He sought out therapy, wanted to understand that ball of anger and to then find ways to rid himself of it.

Mort retired from his work as a designer seven years ago. A friend of his, a very successful marketer, asked Mort for his help. Said he wanted to learn what Mort had learned, nothing to do with design; he wanted to learn about letting go of that "ball of anger," about not sweating the small stuff.

At the end of their "session" the man asked Mort what he would charge. Mort was perplexed, he'd had no intention of charging anything. The friend said he had to to put value on his work and proceeded to hand Mort a check.

Mort has since counseled or helped seven or eight people. It is his side business.

His business: sharing a little wisdom of how to be the gentle old man.

How not to sweat the small stuff.

How to remember to be thankful.

It's so easy to be angry. It's so rare and beautiful and powerful to know how to love and to give.

That's all it's about, Mort told me: love.

He left the store after our having chatted a good half hour and the rest of my shift I felt on a cloud. That there are folks in the world like Mort. That hope and faith and love are possible.

He wasn't selling me anything.

He wasn't forcing anything on me.

He didn't want anything in return.

Just love, and the key, he shared with me, is finding a ritual to remind ourselves of these things everyday when we wake up.

Thank you, Mort.

LoveJonathan Mendelsohn