05/20/2013 07:06 am ET Updated Jul 20, 2013

Ben Franklin Is Back


Spring arrived; it's about time! The snow is gone and it's time for sunny days and warm nights.

Sadly, on this day, April 1, 2013 the weather was not perfect. The sky was grey with many black clouds. There was heavy rain accompanied by loud thunders and frequent lightening.

My initial plan was to take a walk in the neighborhood. But clearly, going outside was out of the question. So what does a woman do? Go to the Mall, what else?

Around noon I put on my newly knitted red scarf, grabbed my small umbrella and walked to my car. My kindle and my new knitting project were packed in my bag.

My intent was to sit on one of the benches at the King of Prussia mall accomplishing some productive tasks, other than just shopping. Not any less important, there is another activity that I enjoy, and that is people watching; I like to sit on a bench, look around and observe the crowd and the happenings.

Arriving at the mall filled me with great joy. Instead of being surrounded by wet darkness, the mall welcomed me with dryness and lots of light. An indoor spring; what a wonderful world!

I happened to find a place to sit right next to a store called "Forever 22", as the name indicates; this store sells clothes for the young. It's a safe place for me because I will never purchase anything in there; my age is more than triple 22, nothing there is for me.

After doing some knitting and reading I put everything in my bag and turned to my favorite activity of people watching. It's relaxing yet tantalizing. My fantasy was in over drive, guessing about people's lives; Are these people a married couple or are they friends on a date? Is this her son or her young husband? Why aren't these two boys at school? At this time of day is this person on vacation or unemployed? For a time I forgot all about my own life and I started living the imaginary lives of strangers.

At one point through the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly man whose hair was all white and gathered in a long pony tail. His eyeglasses were funny and looked ancient to me. The man was looking all around him from side to side and up and down. He seemed confused and disoriented. My curiosity turned into a concern. Is he suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's? Could he be lost or hungry? Should I do something to help him?

Ring-ring-ring... my cell phone signaled a text message. It was from my daughter sending me a photo of my sweet grandchildren. Momentarily my attention was focused on saving the picture, and on sending a reply.

When I was done and lifted my head, I suddenly noticed that someone was sitting right next to me. Have you guessed? This someone was the old confused man that I was telling you about.

Decision time! What do I do? Should I ignore him? Talk to him? Well, no need to wonder because he started talking to me.

What is this device that you are holding in your hand? He asked. He seemed even more confused than before. Evidently, he was glancing at it during the time that I was handling it, unable to figure out what it was. This stranger heard the ringing and he saw the photo. He also saw me writing and was wondering what it was, asking me whether it was a camera or a typewriter or maybe a telephone. I invented the Post Office, he said, but I can see that it's obsolete now. I spent years in a print shop, he continued, but it was a world of difference. I could tell that his mind was full of curiosity and interest.

It took me about an hour to show him my smart phone and to explain him the different things that can be done with it. His grasp was quick and complete even though he never saw anything like this before. He impressed me greatly; I could tell that his brain was full of knowledge and understanding. He must have been a genius in his younger years, I thought to myself. His mental energy was amazing. I offered that he try this innovative modern little machine and suggested that he type his name.

What a funny surprise; he typed 'Benjamin Franklin'. A man with a nice sense of humor, I thought. But what is your real name? I asked. Answering that this is his real name seemed so honest and innocent. Yet I couldn't help but say to him cynically, please, don't fool me even though it is April 1ST, a day for foolishness.

To that he replied that he is really the well-known Benjamin Franklin. He continued to explain that being so involved with inventions and science all his life, he just couldn't stop his busy intellectual activities even in Heaven. The angels begged him to rest in peace but to no avail. After his stubborn insistence they decided to allow him to pursuit his interests.

Years past, he told me, then many decades and centuries of thinking, calculating and experimenting until finally his reward arrived, his best invention ever.

Yesterday, to the surprised angels in heaven and now to me, he showed a few tiny chips. The chips were the size of a dime, very thin, circular and smooth and looked like a blank coin. I had no clue of what they were. Mr. Franklin or Ben, as he wanted me to call him, continued to explain. This is a unique powerful chip, to be used only in heaven, he said.

All a person needs to do is swallow this chip with some warm purified water and "voilà", the person will be taken back to earth for an additional decade to his life, giving him or her, an opportunity to complete things that they wanted to do but weren't able to finish before their death. People may have wished to read a specific book, visit a place, or even more importantly, to express their love for relatives or possibly to apologize to a friend for something that they now regret.

He continued; this is how I, Benjamin Franklin, was able to come back to my beloved Philadelphia.

I pinched myself in the arm, then in my thigh. Am I hallucinating? My head was spinning, I felt like fainting. Where am I? Is it a dream? Did I fall asleep on this shiny brown bench?

Eventually I came to my senses. No it wasn't a dream. He was right next to me and yes, his face does remind me of Ben Franklin's.

It was much past lunch time and my stomach was growling. I decided to go for lunch and I surely, invite this genius to join me. During lunch he will be able to explain me more about his newest invention of this chip, I suggested.

Ben accepted my invitation. With his widely open eager blue eyes he said that he too needed some explanations from me about current life and the achievements of modern times. Everything was so foreign to him, so different than what he remembers from the 18TH century.

As we were walking toward the restaurant we passed right next to "Forever 22". A thought crossed my mind; maybe his next invention will be not only to bring us back for another decade of life, but also to bring us back to our youth. Who knows maybe someday I will shop at "Forever 22" after all.