I met Beverly at the edge of Old Field Road not far from my home. She was walking on the sidewalk, pocketbook slung over her shoulder as I pulled up to the stop sign.
–> If I had been in a hurry, I’d have missed her.
–> If I’d been absorbed in my own thoughts or changing the radio station, I’d have missed her.
–> If I’d been looking at my phone as I stopped at the intersection, I’d have missed her.
Instead, I noticed her and stopped. I noticed the confused look on her face as she looked up at the sign for Old Field Rd.
Then I noticed her flip flops and swollen feet. I noticed the 5 shirts she was wearing. I noticed that the tag was still on her pocketbook. I noticed her thinning hair and skin that had lost much of its youthful elasticity.
She was gracious enough to let me look inside her purse for identification. No phone. No wallet. I pulled out a Mother’s Day card given to her by a grown child. Then I found an envelope with a name and address. I mapped the unfamiliar location and discovered that she’d been walking more than 3 miles if she’d taken the most direct route from her home to this spot. My guess is that she hadn’t.
I opened the back hatch of my vehicle and we sat on the tailgate while I called the number she knew by heart the way I still know the phone number of my best friend growing up because I dialed it eight million times – the repetitive, rotary dialing of a number that contained 9s and 0s.
A man answered the phone and said he’d come get her. I didn’t know him, and Beverly was unclear about who may have answered at that number. So, I also called 911.
While we waited for the mystery man and an officer, we sat in the shade of my hatch, dangling our feet. I listened as she told me that she’d been walking a long time and that she was really tired. She told me that her mom was going to be mad.
She was scared and confused so I kept our chatter up-beat. She explained that we’d met before. I’m pretty sure we had not.
A kind officer arrived just before a graying man, and they had a conversation while Beverly and I swung our flip-flopped feet. Her husband walked up to us and quietly, tiredly said to her, “Honey, this is the longest walk you’ve taken yet. Let’s go home.”
As they pulled away, the officer explained what I already knew.