Scene From A Park

Photo Credit James Lee

Photo Credit James Lee

Writing 101:  Point of View

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry.  Write this scene.  Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

We went for a stroll one afternoon in the park. I thought it might be our last outing of the season before the snow came, or even the last for the year until spring, supposing I survived the winter. Possibly the last park stroll of my life. I didn’t know. There were no birds to feed, the geese had all gone south. Leaves were falling and skittering across our path in the brisk wind and there was a faint smell of burning in the autumn air. Cold enough for a jacket buttoned up and for noses and cheeks to tingle. So I was surprised when we came across the old woman sitting alone on her bench, bare hands on cold steel needles. She looked up but the little clicking sounds the needles made as she worked bright red yarn around them never faltered. Her steely grey eyes peered straight through me as if I wasn’t even there. I let go of Sally’s hand and roughly brushed the tears I couldn’t control from my cold cheeks. What the hell? I never used to cry. But my emotions had gone haywire lately. I wanted immediately to lash out at a perfect stranger, shake my fist, yell at her wrinkled old face. Look at me, I’M STILL HERE! I’m not gone yet. And it won’t be today. Today is NOT a good day to die. I looked away, wiped my palms on my jeans, and grabbed Sally’s hand. And then we just kept walking.

There was such a sadness in Sam that last fall we spent together. And so much anger. I honestly don’t know how I’d handle a similar diagnosis, but when he got the bad news, I decided the right thing for him to do was to keep on living. No giving up, no wallowing. I wanted him to be grateful for every single day he had left and happy to live all of them. But his moods were just all over the place. Of course I understood why, but still it was hard for me to cope with the intensity and the fierceness of his feelings. The funniest things would set him off. Like the day we went for a walk in the park. Everything was so beautiful and colourful and crisp. I’ve always loved Indian summer. There was a little old grandma sitting on one of the park benches busily knitting a child’s bright red sweater. She glanced up at us as we approached and I returned her sweet smile. It vanished though, when she looked at Sam. Because he was crying. Deep wrenching sobs, although later he’d claim it was just a few tears from the cold air and some pent-up emotion and naturally he didn’t want to talk about it. He dug his fists into his eyes, and then he grabbed my hand again and almost wrenched my shoulder out of its socket pulling me away. That poor old grandma, I’m sure he must have given her a crazy scare. And poor me. But mostly, poor, poor, dear Sam.

I was never one to sit at home by myself with nobody to talk to and nothing new to see, so as long as the weather stayed decent and my legs were willing, I’d pack up whatever I was working on and shuffle my old bones over to the park across the way. The bench I liked the best was under a big old red maple tree, and that fall it was just gorgeous. Red as the little sweater I had decided to knit for the dog I didn’t have. Once in a while the odd curious person would take the time to stop and chat. I lived for that. I used to tell fortunes and predict the future in my younger days, but those skills must fade away with age and lack of practice, because I got pretty rusty. Still, I liked to give it a whirl whenever I had the chance. Mostly I’d come up with nothing much to write home about. So when that young couple walked up the path it was like I’d been struck by psychic lightning. Her sadness mixed up with bewildered confusion, his rage manifested in clenched fists and choked back tears. Their combined unhappiness almost bowled me over. There was so much I wanted to say to them about hope and faith and nothing written in stone,  but they didn’t stop. Maybe it’s just as well. They were both already resigned to a future they believed they were powerless to change.  Too bad no one likes a little old lady who interferes.

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A Meaningful Possession

I did not inherit much of my mothers animated busy-ness.  She was always on the go, heading somewhere, doing something, making or repairing or cleaning things, sorting stuff out, thinking, reading, talking, falling into bed exhausted and then getting up bright and early in the morning to start all over again.

She wore me out.  She was one of those people who found it hard to sit still.  So I sat still in sufficient quantities for both of us.  I seem to still be doing that, come to think of it.  Relaxed, motionless, barely breathing.  Mind blank.  Accomplishing nothing.  (You might be surprised at what can pop into an empty head. And pop right out again with equal ease.)

Over the years my mother gave me a lot of things I cherish and I’m grateful for every one of them.  A person cannot spend an entire lifetime being that industrious without leaving a lot of interesting stuff behind.  When she did decide to sit down for five minutes she’d pick up her knitting and keep right on talking, no matter how complicated the pattern.  Sometimes I swear she didn’t even look directly at whatever she was making, and still things generally turned out the way they were supposed to.

She and my dad spent their last years together in a care centre.  He was in a wheelchair following a stroke.  She had heart and respiratory problems and macular degeneration.  They both needed care, and yet they never stopped caring for each other.

Normally you’d think a person in her late eighties who can’t see would give up things like knitting.  But dad needed a throw to put over his legs because they were always cold, and mom decided to make him one. Her peripheral vision was all she needed to sort out the blues.  I don’t know if this throw started out wide and ended up narrow, or the other way around.  It might have been some miscalculation on her part, or perhaps she did it on purpose so one end was wider for an easier wrap-around on the legs.  It’s all done in a basket weave stitch and she probably didn’t consciously count any of it.  Straight garter stitch would have bored her to tears.  There’s a few bumps and lumps and a couple of holes and the odd increase or decrease in random places, but over all, with its crocheted edge, I think it’s damned near perfect.

It might not be the most gorgeous piece of work she ever turned out, but dad loved it.  I’m a little ashamed of my initial reaction on seeing it for the first time – (Oh my gawd – what in the world is this?) – but when it was up for grabs in the grand sort-out of what was left when she was gone, I didn’t hesitate to save it.  It’s just so MOM.  You never know what strange and wonderful thing will end up meaning the world to you. This little blue kniited throw is my priceless treasure.