The sun’s reflection from Portland harbor was blindingly silver and made the brick sidewalk hard to see. I was grumpy, for no particular reason, and was again wondering what motivated UPS men to wear shorts in December. Probably just some harmless bravado.
The half-mile point along the Eastern Promenade is marked with a granite obelisk, about 15 feet tall. It was erected there to mark George Cleeves’ 1633 establishment of a fishing village called Falmouth, later changed to Portland, just 300 years before I was born. I bribe myself with the monument as my destination, before turning back on my walk.
People often mumble a greeting as they pass on the prom, and some even smile. My hip had been aching, so I had the cane. I’m still surprised to find that many people give me extra space when they see the cane. Perhaps there could be a symbol of some kind that would produce that same consideration for people whose malady could not be seen.
A woman, pushing a wheelchair, turned out from the lobby of the apartment building and along the prom toward me. She was probably in her 50s and might have been a companion or a nurse’s aide. I nodded to her, and she smiled, and then I smiled at the woman in the chair and said hello. She was probably well into her 90s . There was an oxygen tube at her nose, and her very small, old body was buttoned into a wool coat and comfortably wrapped in a throw. Her hands and whole face were wrinkled with living – she was quite beautiful.
This person I had never met before looked up and said “What a lovely day. I hope it’s a good one for you, too.” That, in itself, would have surprised me, except that her eyes were looking directly, deeply into mine and I knew she really meant it, that she was giving something to me.
The moment passed, they went along, and I started walking again – smiling this time.
When I think back to that moment, I can still feel the look from that very old woman, in her wheelchair, wishing me well.
Roger Hewett lives in Portland.