She seems to exist in only two possible situations: on the back of a Harley, gray hair poking out of her motorcycle helmut, or standing on the sidewalk, somewhere between confused and straining to recall where she was going when she walked out the door.
She must be 80, at least. Her white hair is bobbed and frames her tan, wrinkled face, which is speckled with age spots and the corporal paraphernalia of a lifelong smoker. She likely has dementia, but I’m no doctor. She waves every time I walk past, with the innocence that only the really young or the really old have the capacity to possess.
She loves my dog, which is how I’ve come to know her. Each time we walk past, she calls, “Heya poochie!” He loves the attention and manages to instinctively know not to jump on this frail woman as she bends down to pet him.
A few days ago, I stopped to talk to her for longer than usual. Since I’m typically on my lunch break when I see her, I’m rushed in my ability to linger and enjoy the day with a nearby acquaintance. It was then that I realized she had broken ever so slightly with reality and time.
They say the topic of a conversation changes roughly every seven minutes, without our thinking about it. As we stood underneath the July sun, she punctuated her thoughts every minute or two with a few subconscious catch phrases.
Don’t cut your hair, it’s so beautiful when it’s long.
I had three birds, and each bird had its own cage. Animals are so kind.
Beyond pets and hair length, she urged:
Enjoy your life.
She repeated this over and over, as if she were suddenly possessed with the desire to embed this as a mantra in my mind. Enjoy your life. Enjoy your life. There was a man, she explained, who was only in her life for four years until he passed away. Without saying so, it was clear how much she missed him, but life continued. She raised her children, and their pets, and, according to her, went out every single night. She lived, and she was happy.
And she still is happy, on her little piece of sidewalk and on the back of that Harley.
It comes from a genetic inclination towards superstition, but I see signs everywhere. So I lean in as she tells me this. “Yes, yes! Enjoy life!” It’s these little interactions that give meaning to our days, that we draw upon years down the line. Especially when they happen on late summer days like these, when the air is cooling down, the cicadas are warming up, and each dawn begs you to play hooky in exchange for a trip to the beach. Which, in fact, counts quite heavily towards enjoying life.
Carpe diem that madness.
I’m participating in BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo for August, for which the theme is Hot. Here goes nothing!
Photo of Atlantic City via Wikimedia Commons