About eight months ago we started taking the highway as our primary route to Michelle and Stephanie’s school. Before that we had followed Lisa’s lead – the back way.
She lived in Raleigh her entire life and avoided the Beltline as if driving on it would give her smallpox. To her credit, you do pass two schools on your way to I-440. But to my credit, if we are on time, we hit it right between the middle school drop off and the elementary school drop off – and we save about 2 minutes. In my world, that’s a lot of time.
It didn’t take but a few days for us to notice her, the little old lady who walks Ridge Road every single morning at the very time we head out. I think I was the first to call her out.
“Girls, look at that sweet old lady, the one in the pink sweat suit. She exercises every single morning. I love her!”
“Dad, she has a fanny pack!” Michelle wasn’t about to let that fashion faux pas go unnoticed.
“I think it’s cute,” Stephanie added.
This woman in the silky pink sweat suit with the black fanny pack hitched over her jacket at the very epicenter of her body became a part of our daily routine.
We’d wave to her, although she never noticed. We talked about what we thought she was going to do that day, “Maybe she’s gonna go shopping for a new sweat suit.”
“Nah. I think she’s gonna catch up on her favorite show, Honey Boo Boo.”
“Dad, can we meet her some day?” Stephanie requested.
“Perhaps this summer we can take a morning walk and try.”
I’ve been so impressed with her commitment. She appears to be in better shape than I.
But the past two weeks, she hasn’t been walking. I’m not sure what’s going on. We’re pretty concerned about her. Is she visiting her daughter in Iowa? Could she be sick? Did she move? Worse?
Last fall I went to the dry cleaners and the woman there asked me why she hadn’t seen my wife in a while. I had to break the news to her. I could tell it shook her up.
My life is full of folks like that. People that make up my community and yet I don’t know much of anything about them.
There’s the rough-looking dude who runs the register at the drugstore. He’ll talk your ear off.
There’s a woman who bags at the Harris Teeter. She has one grown daughter, and she grew up in Fayetteville, my hometown. I’ve “known” her for years. There’s the sixty year old woman with beautiful, straight white hair. We’ve been smiling at each other as we both jogged Ridge Road since DJ was in a stroller. There’s another woman who walks in our neighborhood. She has two leg braces. One day she stopped me in my yard and told me that our house was her favorite on the street.
We live all around these people. They live all around us. We rely on each other for constancy. We miss their presence when they’re not where they’re supposed to be. And yet, we don’t take the time to learn their name or a thing about them.
Maybe we’re too busy. Maybe we’re lazy. But I folks who do more than I do to call folks by name – to engage in a brief conversation, to show some appreciation for the small role they play in our lives.
We’re strangers and yet not.