Yesterday was a gorgeous Florida winter day. The sun was shining and skies were that blue that only happens when the temperature drops and the air is so clear it’s almost shimmery.
Bailey dog has been sick. Actually due to his age he has hip dysplasia and when I go, “want to go for a walk?” he goes, “Nuh-uh.” (No, in dog speak). Actually he makes it to the corner and back, but on this day I decided to take a long walk. For years, my sister, my sister-in-law, my friends, the lady at the grocery checkout, Dr. Oz and every TV health Guru has been singing the praises of a good walk.
So I put on my shoes, my grey flannel sweats and my Ohio State long sleeve tee (for all my Gator neighbors) and headed out. As I made the turn I noticed I was behind a woman, who I assumed was from the neighborhood, walking about seven houses ahead of me. Now you all know I am a writer and am always looking to chat up someone so I can get a story.
I walked faster.
“Hi,” I said.
The woman jumped.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” I smiled. I held open my hands as if to say, see I’m not some creeper. I’m just another nomad out enjoying the day. "Since we’re going the same way do you mind if we walk together?”
Maybe not so sure.
“So do you live here?”
“No, I’m just visiting my daughter and her family.”
I was watching Naomi talk while occasionally keeping my eye on the road.
“You would think so.”
Naomi went on to explain that her daughter and son-in-law worked long hours. Her daughter insisted on still taking the children to daycare as she didn’t want to upset their usual schedule. So Naomi was “plopped” as she said, “in Florida with nothing to do and home alone for long hours on end.”
“My husband died in May and the kids got together and decided I needed to come to Florida for the winter.”
“You didn’t want to come?”
“I did at first. I’m from Massachusetts and the idea of getting out of the cold was especially attractive. But once I got here I felt like a burden.”
I walked silently letting her talk. I felt that maybe I was supposed to be here for this woman to voice her frustrations.
“My daughter has a housekeeper and daycare, she even has her laundry picked up and delivered. There’s nothing for me to do.”
I had planned on walking a couple times around the block, but was now on my fifth go round. I was torn between getting on with my day and being a sounding board.
“I keep thinking, I’m only 57. Is this what life is going to be from now on?”
I was shocked. I assumed she was older. This woman having this crisis was only 2 years older than me.
“I always say, life is what you make it.” Ah, Wendy being philosophical.
“That’s how I use to be,” she paused. “But now it’s just so hard.”
We walked and talked some more. I told her about my daughter who recently moved out and about my mother's upcoming visit. I found we had a lot in common.
On the eighth time around our neighborhood we stopped at the end of my drive and I told her I needed to go in. I also told her I worked at home during the day and if she wanted to stop by, it was fun having someone to walk with.
“Thanks,” Naomi said. “I may take you up on that. I was only going to walk around twice but it seemed like you needed someone to talk to.”
I smiled and waved. We had just walked six more miles than we were planning, just because we thought the other person might need someone to talk to.
And that’s my story.