Sunday, April 21, 2013
"Oh, how sweet."
I looked up to see an Elderly Lady beaming at me.
Well, beaming at us actually.
Four-year-old Grandson and I were grocery shopping - he sitting in the child seat of the cart.
At that moment, Grandson was carefully weighing our groceries in the produce scale.
A box of Kraft Dinner was plopped on the scale.
"Oh, 25 lbs at least," I joked.
Grandson broke out in a smile.
Next came a snak-pak of apple sauce.
"My goodness - that must weigh hundreds of pounds!"
Nathan laughed with delight and kicked his fat little legs against the grocery cart, making an awful racket. But I didn't care - we were on a roll now!
In went a single lemon, followed by some sliced turkey, a bunch of celery and finally a litre of milk.
We were giggling and wiggling and having a blast - just the two of us. And that's when Elderly Lady came into view, catching me off guard.
"Oh, we're having a little fun," I said beaming back at her.
"I can see that," she agreed, laughter crinkling the corners of her eyes. "These are the best years - enjoy them."
"Yes," I began, nodding my head, and wondering if I dare go a little further and boast that I actually have 9 grandkids altogether. As I hesitated, she continued...
"My children are all grown up, of course - in their 50's."
Mental math is not my strong suit, but it was beginning to dawn on me that she thought little Nathan was my child - not my grandchild.
For a moment I was stunned. Do I say anything? Do I come clean and tell her the truth?
Naw, I let her think what she wanted and basked in the glow of this unexpected complement.
One Sunday morning about a month ago, I was coming home from a walk. An ordinary walk that had turned into disaster. I was just about to zip up the front steps and into the condo building when I saw an Elderly Lady at the top of the stairs, bundled up against the chilly wind. There was something tentative about her demeanour, as if she wasn't sure about venturing out on this frosty morning.
I called out a greeting on my way up the steps. And a warning.
"Good Morning! I hope you're not thinking of walking on the ice today. I fell through!"
It was true. I never walk on a frozen body of water.
One always hears about people falling through. Well, I wouldn't be one of those. I wouldn't be silly enough to walk on ice - particularly in March!
Ah, but that Sunday morning I did. Something was pulling me to get out of my comfort zone, to do something different. To take a chance, a risk, to stop being afraid of life.
The wind was brisk and cold as I started out on the road, even with the sun peeping in and out of clouds. Staring down the embankment at the icy lake, I wondered.....
Should I? Or is that just plain silly?
What's the worst that could happen? I'd fall through. Well ha! I'll stay close to shore where it's shallow.
Having made my decision, I slid down the snowy bank and on to the ice - like Alice falling through the Rabbit Hole.
It was like entering another world. I was below the level of the earth, sheltered and protected from the wind. Nothing stirred. No birds flew overhead. All was quiet and peaceful - almost surreal and at any moment I expected a Snow Queen or Ice Fairy to magically appear.
The air was different down here, unexpectedly warm and comforting. I could feel the enchantment, the charisma, the lure of walking the lake in winter. I understood now why people are drawn to this place. Time seems to slow down. There are no paths to follow, no map, no itinerary. Ice stretches out for miles.
Cars and people rush by without a glance to those strolling below. It's almost as if we're invisible to the outer world of roads, cars, buildings and timetables. Our hidden world by comparison is calm and safe, as we snuggle in the lap of Lady Lake.
I wandered aimlessly for a bit kicking up powdery snow as I went, adding to the footprints and ski tracks already there. With clear evidence of so many others playing on the ice, surely it must be safe.
Tiny animal prints close to shore told me the earth was finally waking up. It was March and this winter had been a long one.
Up ahead I could see a culvert with water running out of it's mouth. There was ice all around and the open water part was very small.
Hmmm. Should be safe. I jumped up and down where I stood, a good piece away from the culvert just to make sure. Solid as a rock.
I ventured a little closer.
What was that patch of black over there? Must be a mud bar - like a sand bar in the ocean. I'm sure that would be safe to stand on - it's still a good distance away from the open running channel of water.
Confidently, I stepped closer. Sure looks like a sand bar to me. One more step....
Crack! Right through! Unbelievably icy water swallowed my legs! All the way up to mid-thigh!
Eeks!! I was instantly soaked! Boots, jeans, bottom of my coat and gloves. The worst happened! (went spinning through my mind) And it's darn cold!!
I gasped in shock and immediately clomped my foot up on the ice to haul myself out.
Crack! Right through again. S**t! Try again.
Crack! Jeeze! I was getting scared now. Quickly I looked up towards the road in hopes that some passerby would see me and offer to help, yet fervently hoping nobody was about to witness this crazy lady trying to crawl her way out of the lake, but slipping back each time.
Nobody was there, but after a few more tries (and bruised shins) I finally latched onto solid ice and pulled myself up. Now I was really cold! And thanked God it was only my legs. If it had been up to my chest or neck, I think I would have passed out.
Squishing with each step I strode quickly away to put as much distance as possible between me and that treacherous culvert. Made it up the snowy bank to the road and squished all the way home.
Still hoping nobody was out and about this Sunday morning I almost made it home - until I met Elderly Lady at the top of the stairs preparing for her walk.
She looked blankly at me.
"I fell through the ice - just be careful where you walk, if you're going out on the lake."
She looked at me as if I had 5 heads.
"On the lake! I could never manage that steep embankment! My arthritis prevents me from going anywhere except around the block, and it's sore and achy this morning. I had to force myself to get up and out. Not that I'm complaining, dear," she added hastily.
Instantly I regretted my insensitivity towards a person so obviously frail. But before I could make amends she continued scrutenizing my person.
"But you're so young and healthy....." With a wave of her hand she dismissed me, my dripping winter clothes and chattering teeth, as if it was nothing but a folly of irresponsible youth.
Young? Me young? I'm a Grandma, I wanted to shout back to her. I'm not young, I'm old. But, of course I held my tongue. Age is relative, as we all know. Perhaps by the time I'm in my 80's, I'll look at a 60 year old and think, "Oh to be youthful again and walk anywhere I want."
Smiling to myself, I turned to go inside. Sopping wet and shivering, I was anxious now to get away. I wanted nothing more than to slink into the condo unobtrusively, peel off these soggy clothes and soak in the hottest water I could stand. Cold was seeping into my bones and I shivered from top to toe.
However, my insides were warm and fuzzy from my encounter with this dear lady, for she had paid me a compliment - without even knowing it.
It was not only her words. Words slide easily off the tongue, often on a whim or without thought.
It was the dismissive wave of her hand, as if to say - you've got nothing to worry about, you're just a youngster.
"Well, have a nice walk", I called out gaily, turning away. I think I'll hang around with Old Ladies from now on. They sure make my day!