I met Cathy on the B9 bus one Saturday night when I was coming home from Manhattan.
It was a cold, colder than it had any right to be, and I couldn’t wait to get back to my apartment. Cathy, an elderly lady with a shopping cart, was sitting across from me.
“Are you going to Shore Road?” she asked a teenaged girl sitting a few seats away.
The girl shook her head no and looked down to the floor, so I put my hand up.
“I am,” I said.
“Can you walk me to my door?”
The teenager got off at the next stop so it was just Cathy and I riding to the end of the line. As she struggled to stand up, I saw that Cathy needed the shopping cart to help her walk.
“I fell down in my own house one time,” she told me.
She wanted me to walk with her because she was afraid of the winds that blew in off the Narrows.
Those winds can be fierce. Back in my jogging days, I used to run along the bike path that runs along the Narrows and on freezing winter mornings I could actually see the wind churning through the water as it headed straight for me.
It gave me a chance to brace myself before the freezing air sliced through my body. I had a beard for a while and I remember pulling chunks of ice from my whiskers when I got home.
And I could sympathize with Cathy. My mother had to use a walker toward the end of her life and we had to be very careful with her whenever we left the house.
The Leaves Hang Trembling
I’ve had so much grief with my back that walking became absolute torture and I bore no resemblance whatsoever to that fitness-obsessed lunatic running through frigid temperatures.
“My son is in Florida,” Cathy told me as we walked slowly-very slowly—across 71st Street. “He was married for almost 25 years, he has 12 kids, all adopted, some from Russia, some from America.”
Some of the children were handicapped, Cathy said, and her son’s wife had left him because of that.
We walked for a little while longer and we both noticed the absence of any winds.
“It’s not so bad,” Cathy admitted. “I could’ve done this.”
No worries. It was on my way home anyhow and I enjoyed hearing her story. When we reached Cathy’s apartment she turned to look at me.
“God sent you here to help me,” she said.
Some people might roll their eyes at this—myself included at one time-but now I like the idea of a supreme being moving people to where they’re needed the way the wind blows ships across the sea.
“I grew up here,” Cathy continued. “I lived in this building all my life. I moved to another apartment. And then my husband and brother died.”
I lived in this area nearly all of my life, too. I always talked about going to faraway places, but it never happened. I was afraid of the wind, too, the wind of change that would’ve taken me away from the familiar and off to someplace new.
But having said all that, I do love my home near the water and I’m thankful I have it.
“Shore Road is a nice area,” I said.
“Except for the winds,” Cathy reminded me.
I wished Cathy well and walked home. The air was cold but the wind was quiet and the Narrows was as smooth as a pane of glass.