You couldn't miss her! She sat in the park every day, alone, on a park bench overlooking the lake. To those who frequented the park regularly, the lady on the bench was just another part of the park's decor - like a fixture, a water fountain, or a goldfish pond.
I, too, visited the park daily - but I had a purpose. Every day after work I'd dash home, change clothes, and jump into my car and head for the park. Jogging had a three-fold purpose; relieve stress, keep excess poundage down, and keep the blues at bay - and so far, so good.
Then one day last Spring, purely by accident, I came into direct contact for the first time with the fixture, ( excuse me),... lady in the park. My shoe lace came untied halfway through my third lap, and I had no choice but to stop and retie it....which happened to be in front of the bench where the lady sat.
Bending down to retie my lace, I heard what sounded like a growl coming from the bench; "GRRR...", the lady was saying, "Don't you just hate stoppng and losing your rhythym?"
"Yes, maam," I said, looking up from my shoe into a pair of faded blue eyes and a smile that.... despite the lines etched by old Father Time... lit up a friendly face, and I instinctively returned her smile.
"Wait, my dear, you've an eight to add to that GRRR...for spotting the loose lace in time to prevent an accident. You know, as in GRRR...8! " she said with a long, drawn out emphasis on the GRRR.
I couldn't help but laugh. "Wow, I never thought of that." And I jogged off to complete my last lap, but I turned back and waved, "Have a GRRR...8 day, Maam", plagiarizing her long, drawn out GRRR, to a "T". I left her laughing.
After the shoe lace incident, I'd stop by and chat with her for a few minutes before heading home. Although two generations apart, age-wise...I liked her. She was witty and wise, and once I asked why she spent so much time in the park?
"Well," she began, "I live just down the street a block in an Old Folks Home, which we residents jokingly refer to as the 'Grim Reapers waiting room' , because he visits us so often, if you know what I mean?. So, I figure I'll out-fox him. I sneak out of the house everyday and hide here in the park. And if he wants ME so badly, let him him hunt me down instead of just walking into the house and calling my name.
"Besides," she continued, "it's peaceful here, I like to watch the ducklings grow up in the spring; squirrels chasing each other around through the trees in the summer; and butterflies flitting from flower to flower as I listen to the stereophonic sound of birds chirping, singing, warbling and cooing in the background. It's relaxing, and I just sit and watch the world go by"...she paused, "no, I actually watch two worlds go by, God's world and mine - and mine is fleeting by much to quickly, if you know what I mean?"
I thought of saying, "Yes, I know what you mean, and that's a real bummer, giving you a GRRR. without a happy ending." but I thought better of it and remained silent.
It's winter now, and the park is eerily quiet. The squirrels are tucked away in their hollows, the birds have flown south, and the trees forlornly stand with their naked limbs overhanging an empty park bench.
I, myself walk past her empty bench, and worry about her long absence. But, without a place to hide, the Grim Reaper probably went to the 'Waiting Room' and called her name, a name I suddenly realized...I never knew.
"GRRR..." I said to myself as I put on my gloves and tightened the wool scarf around my neck as I exited the park.
Can you believe what stupid word I used to say "It's Cold?" It's obvious that I've lost more than just a memorable fixture in the park...I've lost a friend.
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