We moved into our house twenty years ago. I was a teacher, and spent the summer at work in the yard. I supervised the external make-over. I did what I could to make the inside of the house shipshape. I spent a lot of time driving to the hardware store and lumber yard. I noticed that on many of my drives out of the neighborhood, I often saw the same young woman out on a walk. She was around thirty. I mentioned her one day to my wife.
“You mean that woman with the dark hair,” Cath asked, “in the visor and sunglasses? And maybe she has Down’s?”
“Exactly,” I said. “I saw her today walking home from Kroger. Sheez, that’s like a 5 mile walk. And those roads are really busy.”
“Well,” said Cath, “She seems to do just fine.”
I nodded. She did fine.
We’ve watched her walk a lot of miles since 2000. Those first years, when we would see her, we’d wave at her. At first, she would look away. After a few years, however, she began to wave back.
Emboldened, Cath began to smile and wave when we saw her on a walk; always in her visor, usually in her sunglasses. After a few more years, she began to smile and wave back. As she discovered that Cath was ‘safe,’ I began to smile and wave. After a few months, she began to smile and wave back to me.
I saw her again the other day at the start of my bike ride. I rode past her, slowly. I said hi. She said hi back. Her once-brown hair is mainly gray. It’s okay, she’s probably 50 now.
Her parents, an elderly couple, live about 6 doors up the street. He was in banking, a mutual friend told me. I see him out for walk every so often, always with a nine iron for company.
I wonder about their daughter when the parents pass away. He was a banker so I’m sure he’s done everything possible to provide for his daughter. I have heard she has a sibling, her sister, ready to step in. I hope she can stay in the family home. I hope she can live happily once her parents are gone.
I hope. I went on my ride.
On the way back from my ride, I did the ½ mile warm-down loop I always do. At the far end of the loop, a family moved in last fall. It’s been nearly a year. I haven’t taken the time to introduce myself properly yet. I see the dad around the yard, taking out the trash, driving to work, doing the stuff. We smile and wave. He’s friendly. I’m friendly.
Dude’s pretty ripped. You can tell he hits the gym. He’s also in a wheelchair. Today, as I rolled down the street towards his end of the block at about 6 mph, I could hear a basketball bounce. He was in the yard shooting hoops with his son. His boy is around ten, and pudgy in that pre-teen way.
They were trash-talking.
“What kind of garbage was that?”
“Oh, no, not tonight son.”
“My turn,” I heard dad say. “Shoot ’til you miss.”
I stopped at the bottom of the drive, straddled my bike, and watched them for a second. Dad had a sweet stroke. From ten feet away, he drained three in a row. Son bounced the ball back after each shot.
“Hey, nice shot,” I said.
He looked down and waved.
“How are you, my man?” he asked.
“I’m Dave,” I said.
“Glen,” he said. In another time, we’d have shook hands. Not now, I stayed at the bottom of his drive. Social distancing over social mores.
“My boy Clinton,” he said. Clinton and I waved.
“Just wanted to introduce myself,” I said. “You guys keep ballin.”
“Hey, thanks for stopping,” said Glen. “See you around. Come on, Clinton. Still my turn.”
“Aw, Dad. I ain’t never gonna get no shot. You too good.”
“That’s right, son. Your daddy too good.”
Some days you cry. Some days you laugh.
And on some days, on a bike, you get to do both.