Each afternoon Hughie lent on the gate of his home. He liked doing this because he saw the young ones out walking with their families. He always said “hello” to them. It helped him to think of others rather than his own aches and pains. They were his community as well as others who came to help him.
When he was younger Hughie was neither short nor tall but somewhere in between. And he had loved footy. He had once played for the local footy club. Now in his older age, he used a stick to get around. He had to admit that he didn’t get around much as he was too slow.
Hughie was content in his old age. He had never been one to complain and he didn’t intend to start now. But when he was alone, he often thought that old age wasn’t for the faint- hearted. But he had decided once that he would be more concerned about others than he was about himself. And that kept him going.
Hughie had an old bucket. At one time he had turned it upside down and used it to stand his paint-pot on. The bucket, which was made of galvanised iron, still had splodges of brown paint down one side. But the handle now was a bit awkward for Hughie’s bent fingers. He only used the bucket to collect rain water, but in times of drought he kept it in his garage.
He often wondered what had happened to the big pond he used to walk to. Once it had been full of water and he had always enjoyed seeing the birds having a bath. As they fluffed up their feathers at the water’s edge, they sent drops of water flying everywhere. The drops to Hughie looked like diamonds in the sunlight.
Hughie liked to watch the weather forecast on TV. He often thought that in spite of the fancy equipment the weather people had they were always vague about where the rain was actually going to fall. But he knew Australia was a big place. He thought his bones were better at telling him if it was going to rain.
When the black clouds rolled across the sky, and his bones ached, more than usual, Hughie hobbled out to his garage. He found his old bucket, and put it in his garden. He hoped to catch enough rain to share with the birds. He also hoped there would be enough rain for them to have a bath in the special birdbath he had in his garden.
Lately Hughie had got into the habit of shaking the crumbs from his bread bag into his back garden. The birds seemed to like that, especially the doves. They came every day to eat the crumbs.
Time passed and Hughie knew he probably wouldn’t live much longer. He wasn’t afraid of dying because he remembered his grandma telling him that God cared for a small bird called a sparrow.
And when he was alone, Hughie often talked to God. He thought that if God cared for a little bird like a sparrow, God would care for him too, and would watch over him until his time on earth was done.