Spring took a break here this morning, chased away by a forty-degree fog so thick you might see Sherlock lurking on the corner. A good day to snuggle up in a heavy sweater, a book, and a cup of tea.
I know, however, that an older woman in my neighborhood will not be daunted by the fog—she walks twice a day, rain or shine.
She shook her hand in pain, still holding the stem, and wordlessly complained by her grimace and frustration that she had been cut by a thorn. I glared; she retreated to her condo down the street. Grow your own damn roses I thought.
Then I began to notice her sojourns up our street—you could set AM/PM by her. Plus a regular walk to the nearby Safeway. I would sometimes see her a mile from our neighborhood, carrying a cotton bag, her arms out from her sides as though she were getting ready to fly. If an elderly woman can look tough, she did. Slight of build if not tiny, white hair, nylon jacket now that it’s warmer, a determined look—she could have been my mother who also walked every day until she was well into her nineties.
Last week “the rose stealer” and I happened to be heading out at the same time—me to the coffee shop to meet a writing comrade and she on her walk. We had both been pinned down by days of rain. It suddenly felt terribly wrong to hold such a stupid grudge and I stopped her in the street to greet her.
“Isn’t it great to be out again,” I said. Her face literally bloomed; her bright blue eyes matched the sky. “I often see you walking,” I said, making sure admiration shown in my face. I didn’t want to come off as a potential stalker.
“Every day—twice a day. I walk two miles in the morning and one in the afternoon. And to Safeway—but I don’t count that.” She was delighted to tell me more about her schedule and that her doctor had told her walking was the best medicine. “I like the price,” she said, thrifty child of the depression like my mother.
“I don’t know your age and I’m not asking,” I said, “but you inspire me on days when I lack your commitment.”
“I’m eighty-eight,” she said, her smile widening with well-deserved pride, enjoying the amazement on my face.
We were both teary in the moment.
Ms. Rose’s eyes filled from the recognition that someone noticed her since once you’re hair is gray and AARP has welcomed you, you join “the invisibles” in our youth-worshiping culture.
I was teary because it was like standing there with my mother who at that age walked the high school track or down to Safeway as well. Ms. Rose may have many friends, although at her age she’s probably lost more than she’s gained, and hopefully a cluster of relatives who will see her though. Until then, she is living her life everyday—twice a day and sometimes to Safeway.