I’ll tell you one, and you feel free to tell me one.
I saw her inside the front window. She wept openly. Huge sobs shook her shoulders and tears drenched her cheeks.
Do I pretend I don’t see her, or chance that she’ll suck the life out of me if I ring her bell? I heistated on the sidewalk, my little dog bouncing to continue our walk. Do unto others … “This way,” I directed my pup, and we headed up her front walk.
Her bell chimed, and I could see her lift her silver-haired head, a look of wonder on her face. She placed both arthritis-grissled hands on the arms of her rocker and lifted herself to a stand. I waited, while the pup danced on the porch.
At last, she spoke from behind the still closed door. “Yes?”
“Hello, my name is Jane. Are you all right?”
I heard her turning the bolt, and the door opened a fraction. “Hello” She had swiped most of the tears from her face. It appeared no lights were on in the house. The pup began to jump at the screen door when the woman spoke.
“Hi, I live down the street. This is Aime. We were going for a walk, and I noticed you in your front window.”
She opened the door wider and I could see one hand on a walker. “I’m Golda.”
Getting her out of that dark house might help her. “Maybe you’d like to finish our walk with us?”
She glanced down at Aime and looked uncertain.
“I can keep her on the other side of me from you if you’d like.”
Her face brightened. “Let me get a sweater.” She closed the door and we waited a few minutes.
The thought crossed my mind that we could have been home by now, just as the door opened to Golda, wearing a red sunhat. She wrestled her walker over the threshhold, turned and locked the door. I backed down the steps, keeping myself between Aime and Golda.
She placed her walker on the first step, then one foot after the other. “Thank you for offering to take me on your walk.”
“You’re welcome. Actually, I was hoping to meet you. I’d seen you putting your car in the garage, and sometimes watering your flowers, but we never seemed to be able to meet.”
“I’ve lived on this street for fifty years.”
I wasn’t sure whether she was scolding me, or making small talk. “We’ve only lived here ten years. Your family are all gone?”
“Yes, my husband died fifteen years ago. My children are scattered all over the country.”
“My husband works in the Bay Area. My kids are still here, but today they’re at school.”
“I lived in San Francisco as a child. My family left after the big earthquake.”
Holy cats! I’d like to hear about her life. We positioned ourselves to negotiate the sidewalk, Aime on my left, Golda on my right, and ambled on our way.
Golda stopped and pulled a rose blossom to her nose. “I love roses. Guess it won’t be long before they’re gone. I can feel the chill of winter coming in my bones.”
Might be a good time to find out what had caused her to cry. “I noticed you were crying when I saw you in the window. Did something happen?”
“I just got a phone call that my roof is going to cost $15,000 to replace. I don’t have $15,000. And they told me if I don’t replace it now, the damage to the house will cost far more than that. I think I’m going to have to sell out and move. But the thought of one of those nursing homes where I don’t have flowers or cats just makes me want to die.”
Speaking of cats, Aime noticed one of the ferals that roamed our neighborhood on the other side of the street, and jerked at her leash. “Aime, heel.” She settled back into her walk, but glanced across the street now and then.
Golda’s pace was slowing. We’d only gone half way down the block. Maybe it was time to head back. “Ready to head home?”
“Yes please, my old legs aren’t what they used to be.”
“You know, Golda, there are several men on our street who might be able to replace your roof just for the cost of the materials. And I think there’s a roofer at my church who could show them how to do it right. Would you like me to check?”
“Oh no, I couldn’t impose. But thank you.” We approached her front steps.
“Here, let me give you a hand.” I put my arm under her elbow to help her lift herself. She climbed the two steps.
It sure would be nice to leave her with a little encouragement. “Would you like to give me your phone number so I could check on you now and then?”
“I would, Jane. Thank you.” She found a pad of paper inside her door, wrote the number, and handed it to me.
“Thanks, I’ll be in touch. How about if I give you mine in case you need anything?” I pulled a business card I used with my little freelance writing business from my purse.
“Thank you, Jane.”
“You’re welcome.” I needed to talk to the guys about her roof. This lady was definitely not a life sucker.