Tax day and we did not file online and we have no stamps in the house. In fact, I realize I don't even know what the current postage rate is, nor when we last had stamps. In the spirit of trying to run local errands on foot with G in the stroller, I load him in for a walk to the post office. I'm pushing him and daydreaming and walking down Route 108. A car slows down beside me and beeps twice. A man, identified so by the sound of his voice but invisible in the glare of the sun, whistles and calls out to me. "Hey, mama! Nice ass!"
Well, thank you, and yet...no.
The two-year-old is entertaining herself with my iPhone and manages to play music from my stored catalogue loudly through the speaker. A Macy Gray line streams out before I redirect her back to her game. The four-year-old who had been coloring nearby looks up and asks: Mama, what's a 'sexomatic Venus freak' -- Venus like the lady born on the seashell blown to the beach? What does that mean? Tell me about sexomatic Venus freak, Mama.
I think it's dinner time, isn't it?
At the corner a man in his 60s or 70s has dropped his belongings and his having much difficulty retrieving them. He can't hold onto them. He can't upright himself. He can't...do. He can't seem to do anything at all. He's still a bit in the street, not quite up on the curb, and in fact I'm sure it was the curb that caused his current predicament. But he's struggling and the light is about to change. "Do you need help -- can I help you?" I stammer, saying both of the questions that pop into my mind because I can't decide which option provides him with the greater dignity but also gives me the chance to help him expediently. I worry about the traffic light changing, which he may not have noticed and I worry that he'll wave my offer away.
"I just...I just can't get them off the ground," he says. He's dropped four library books and a steno pad. "You take your time standing up and I'll pick up your belongings," I say. I have his things in my hand but he can't rise. He starts, fumbles, touches his fingers to the ground, tries again. He's bent over at the waist like an unused marionette. I take his elbow and pull him upright, and out of the street. He doesn't even see that cars have begun driving inches behind him again, so busy is he trying not to fall right back over again in the other direction. He catches himself on the handle of the stroller. "I have Parkinson's."
"Take your time," I tell him. "I'll hold your things until you're ready." I'm worried about how he'll possibly get to where he's going and he must see that in my face.
"My wife should be at Shopper's (the grocery store)," he says. I look in that direction. He just has one more parking lot to cross. No more streets. But it's a big parking lot. But he seems finally to have found his balance. His confidence, too -- he reaches to take his things from my hands.
I hesitate to let him go. It's not such a long route if he takes the dirt footpath through the grass to the paved lot and I see him measuring it with his eyes. I wonder if I should offer to walk with him to the front of the store but the dirt path is very narrow; if I accompanied him we would have to follow the sidewalk around to accommodate my stroller. I'd be doubling his walking distance. And I don't want to embarrass him. "Are you sure you're okay to get there on your own?"
"Oh, you can't stop me." He smiles. "It might take a few minutes, but nothing stops me." He gives me a mini-salute and turns away through the grass. What a great answer, I thought. What a great outlook.
I crossed the street away from him, down the curb that had slowed but not stolen his independence. I reached the other side of the street and looked back once. He was walking along the side of the store, using the wall for balance. He was almost at the front walkway. I pushed my stroller towards home. I grinned for at least a mile.