She used to walk and walk and walk. When Sandra and I moved here 13 years ago, she was quite spry. And very imaginative. Some days she would dress like a cowgirl and wear one of her flamboyant wigs. On other days, she would be a different character, always something quite romantic and glamorous. Cars would occasionally honk at her as she walked.
I never really talked to her. I would say hi once in a while, and she would mutter something in reply. Sandra told me they had chatted in passing one day and she had said her name was Eve. But that might have been the name of her character du jour. Their conversation was very brief, Sandra said.
Her son, Rick, would come over and lecture me about the Illuminati and other dangerous global conspirators. He listened to those shock jocks on the Internet, and he bought CDs and books that he would bring over to enlighten me. Recently, he has been more worried about the fallout from that nuclear disaster in Japan, the tsunami incident. He has been taking iodine pills to ward off the radiation that he is sure rains from the sky. He said he gave his mother the pills, too. And her mother, who also lived in the house across the road. I should take the pills, too, Rick warned. But I never did.
Sometimes, Sandra and I would hear her shouting. Occasionally it sounded more like screaming.
From time to time, a sheriff’s cruiser would pull up to the house across the road and deputies would bring her out in handcuffs. She would be absent for a while and then return. And she would walk and walk, across the churchyard, out past the nursing home, past the Publix supermarket, past Sandpiper golf course, all the way up to Walgreen’s – and even farther, walking, walking, walking, dressed in her costume-party clothes.
One day I noticed she wasn’t walking any more, and Rick told me she had had a stroke. A little while later she emerged from her home, no longer in costume, just an old lady pushing an aluminum walker ahead of her, doggedly making her way through the churchyard, out to the street and up the road for block after block after block.
I guess it was a month or so ago that it happened. We saw the ambulance arrive, and later her mother called to me across the street, asking me to let Rick know when he came home that his mother had fallen and was in the nursing home up the road. Rick was in Tampa, she said, and would be back before she came home from visiting her daughter.
I didn’t see Rick that day to tell him, but after that I could hear the Oldsmobile start after supper every night, and I figured he was probably on his way over to the nursing home.
A few days ago, we saw several cars parked across the road. A blonde woman and her three large dogs moved in. A heavy-set man was doing something in the yard. It turned out that he was putting up a large American flag.
Casey, who works over at the church, told me the walking woman had died. The cars we saw were because of the funeral. The woman with the dogs was her daughter, Casey said.
Now, the blonde woman and her dogs are gone. The house across the street is quiet. I haven’t seen Rick in a while, and his grandmother hasn’t been outside today. It’s quite cool but the sun is shining. A brisk breeze is kicking up whitecaps on the lake beyond the house and playing with the large American flag.
There’s nothing else to remind me of the woman who used to go walking. It’s as if she never existed.
A neighbor once told me she was married to someone important and he divorced her when she bore him a blind son. The neighbor said the woman was never the same after that.
But Rick said the boy, his younger brother, was blind in only one eye. He didn’t tell me about the divorce or about his mother’s life.
I wonder how old she was when she died. I’m sure she was quite a bit younger than I.