There was a chilly mist in the March air, but I love my early morning walks and this gray gloom wasn’t going to keep me from today’s. I stopped midway on a bridge over the creek to watch a pair of mallards silently pick and poke along the muddy bank. Nothing could ruin this perfect serenity.
“Hey!” the shrill voice called. “Beautiful, right?” The spry old woman pointed towards the ducks as she marched enthusiastically onto the bridge to stand beside me. She twirled her arms in several rapid circles, stretched her back, then leaned on the railing and began doing standing push-ups. Dressed in sweat pants and jacket, baseball cap and sneakers, she had all the markings of devoted walker.
“Hi.” I said tentatively, unsure of what was happening.
“You’re from the South, aren’t you? Hiiiii. That’s how you said it. Hiiiii.” She spoke with her back to me as she stretched her calves. “I’m betting from the South. Keep talking until I say stop and I’ll know if I’m right, but I bet from the South?”
“Yes Ma’am.” I answered.
Her head whirled around towards me.
“No need to say more.” She laughed and raised her arms over her head to bend from side to side, counting slowly to herself. “Hiiiii” She said again. “I won’t forget that!”
She stood straight and adjusted her cap. “I’m from Wisconsin.”
Introductions seemed in order. “My name is Stuart and…”.
“Oh, I won’t remember your name.” She stopped me. “But I won’t ever forget what you said.”
A quick set of jumping jacks, a couple of leg kicks, and she stopped to stretch again. “Walk much?” She asked as she jogged in place.
“Most days. And I always see something interesting.” I nodded towards the two ducks now swimming in the creek.
“Love them.” She said. “I see a lot of birds out here.”
The old woman told me about her own morning walks and rituals. Each day she got up and tried to find ways to keep herself busy. She retired thirty years ago, bought a home in the area, but now at age ninety-three had watched all her friends “move away or pass away”. She looked down at the creek.
“Old age was ok for the first twenty years!” She giggled slightly. “I used to wonder what the point was because nothing new ever happened.”
“I understand.” I said in my most empathetic tone. “I’m fifty-six and getting older can be rough.” I awaited her sympathy.
“Fifty-six?” She adjusted her cap again. “Why, you’re just a little squirt!”
Forced to defend my comment I agreed with her that I wasn’t elderly, but she herself said the older she got the more she wondered why. She couldn’t see the point.
“I said I used to wonder.” She corrected.
“But it dawned on me.” She continued. “I can walk and move and see and enjoy. I shouldn’t start the day just waiting for good things to come and find me. That’s the wrong approach.”
She took off her jacket. I held it as she finished a final set of standing push-ups.
“It’s like this.” She took back her jacket and stared me in the face. “I woke up this morning and that’s more than some people did. The rest is up to me.”
At ninety-three years of age this little whirlwind of a woman had the perfect attitude. I was impressed at the start by her jumping jacks and push-ups, but now she had captivated me with her words. I wanted to hear more. I listened for the next nugget of advice but she clearly had places to go. She put her jacket back on and zipped it up.
“My name is Nadine and…”
“Oh, I won’t remember your name.” I smiled as I interrupted. “But I won’t ever forget what you said.”
Stuart M. Perkins