Monday, October 10, 2005

Wood ducks and Anita

My maternal grandmother died of cancer when my father was only 11. He was the oldest of three children, and became the mother figure - doing laundry, cooking, cleaning. It was an incredible responsibility thrust upon him at such a young age. When I was born, my father was only 20 years old, and he named me after her. Thankfully, I was bestowed with her middle name, which she preferred, to her first (Mildred).

Yesterday, Michael decided that he would teach me how to throw a football. Considering that I am perhaps the least graceful person in the world, it was quite an undertaking of love on his part. We went to our favorite park, a sprawling place with open greenspace to enjoy the first touch of fall.

We grabbed a bag of bread on the way to feed the ducks and geese at the pond, and headed off with just a few hours of daylight to spare. We spent a few minutes picking up trash after other people (by the way - it's not that difficult to just put your trash in a trash receptacle. Littering in my humble opinion, should be considered a deadly sin). We sat tearing up the bread, throwing it to the sparrows under the trees and the mallards and canadian geese on the side of the pond.

Then she approached. I don't know what made me brighten and smile at her as she passed. She was nearly 82 years old, a mere wisp of a woman - with a perfectly coordinated grey suit and hat, with a pretty grey pearl silk scarf. We exchanged perfunctory greetings, and then I invited her to sit with me. Her name was Anita. I learned of her life growing up in Italy, then in Switzerland and Austria, of falling in love with an American soldier by chance in Cannes during a holiday that she left for without changing Lira for Francs, without so much as an overnight bag. Something, she told me, something powerful told her she had to go to Cannes, and it was there she literally ran into him. They corresponded for years, lovely letters she said helped her hone her understanding of English. He came back to Italy and married her and brought her back here and they have been married around 50 years. He is a philosophy professor and she - her eyes twinkling - said she is just a student of the world.

They had a daughter, but she said with tears in her eyes, that she never sees her. She had great difficulty conceiving her, and then had to have a cesarean to deliver her. She told me, back then that was a serious surgery... I nearly died, she said. But it was worth it to have her. Her daughter lives in Portland and they never talk. It's very sad she said, so incredibly sad to live without children. She said, I never thought that I would have to feel this emptiness in my heart.

I nodded, with tears in my own eyes. I know.

She patted my hand and said, "dear child, trust in fate. good things will come to you with time, you just have to open your heart to the possibilities."

As her husband was walking back around the edge of the pond, clasping his rabbit headed cane, she said, well, I must go. Please promise me that we can see each other again. this meant a great deal to me.

I will. I said. I will.

The autumn sun was sinking low on the horizon, and Michael walked up to me and said - do you realize you've been talking for nearly 2 hours? He said, that was a wonderful thing you did for her though, she was so happy when she walked away.

I cannot rationalize how I felt this closeness, this bond to a woman 55 years older than me who I had known only for the space of an hour, but I did. It was real - and it was delightful.

And I said no, it was a wonderful thing she did for me.

4 Comments:

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous T said...

Ah, gorgeous - I've always wanted to do that. I knew it would be worth it. Just lovely - thank you for sharing.

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Nico said...

Sounds like a lovely afternoon. Chicken soup for the infertile soul!

 
At 7:02 PM, Blogger Larisa said...

How lovely. It's so interesting how people can be drawn together - and how they need each other in different ways.

 
At 8:25 PM, Blogger Vacant Uterus said...

How perfect. I love stories like that; a chance meeting that heals two hearts instead of just one.

 

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