A perilous walk

Independence wins!

It was midsummer. Dressed in a downy sea green parka that engulfed her, her scarf loosely wrapped around her neck and tucked inside protected her neck from drafts. she grabbed the railing with one hand, her walker with the other and proceeded cautiously step by step down the eight back steps until she reached the pavement.

From there she slowly made her way out to the garage gate at the lane and determinedly proceeded up this back alley stopping from time to time to look at a flowering bush in someone’s back yard or to admire a particularly well laid out garden. In recent years, the ranchers had been replaced by huge neo-California style stucco houses. The last four houses up our lane had five car garages and no good gardens to enjoy.

At the corner of the lane she turned east towards the front of the street we live on, went north, away from our house, and up that block. It was a routine. It took her about an hour to do, got her out of the house and into the fresh air.

At the end of the block, she crossed the street and returned, coming back west down the other side, enjoying the colour in the gardens, a pretty flower, marveling always at the funny evergreen that could not hold itself up and made its skinny way along various props as it grew.

This day, a young lad on a bicycle came riding up the street, dropped the bicycle on the boulevard a few steps ahead of her, ran into the back yard of the house before him.

She was paralyzed with fear. This vigorous young man could overpower her. Surely he was up to no good. He had run between the houses . Surely he was escaping from something. Her heart beat with panic. What was she to do?

Coming up the street was another man. This one was tall and solid looking, loping at a leisurely pace. As he drew nearer, she almost collapsed with trembling relief.

“Hi Grandma!” It was Hugh, her cheery grandson. “How are you Grandma?” The cheer continued until his exuberance died and rapidly turned to concern. She had no need to say anything. Her face read panic and fear.

“Take me home! Quick! Quick!” she said.

“What’s the matter Grandma? ” he asked, now solicitous and worried.

Now Hugh is six foot two. Under my careful management he has turned from a skinny teenager into a substantial foodie. No one would mess with him just based on his height and bulk although he has no martial arts under his belt, nor a single bellicose thought in that academic mind of his. He looked around and could see nothing.

Mother pointed at the bicycle, as if he should understand. She was virtually speechless.

“Let’s go! Come on! Let’s go!” she exhorted as if her life depended on it.

And so they “hurried” back at Mother’s pace as Hugh tried to find out what had alarmed her.

By the time they were home and safely sitting at the kitchen table drinking a hot, hot cup of tea, all doors front and back locked to ensure no burglar or home invader could breach the fortress, the story came out.

A bad boy was riding his bicycle up the street and had stopped in front of her. Had he not seen Hugh coming up the street, he would have attacked her and knocked her down. Instead, he’d seen Hugh and dashed between the houses waiting for Hugh to go by. Perhaps he was robbing the house where he had gone in while he waited. He hadn’t come back out again.

Nothing could convince her that he perhaps lived there or was visiting.

Why was he in a hurry? Why did he drop his bicycle? It must have been stolen. Why did he disappear between the houses? If he lived there, why didn’t he go in the front door?

That day, that walk, marked the end of solo walks, walks of independence. From that day forth, she could no longer go out alone.

At first, the Ron would go with her or Hugh. Ron was a delight to see, how he helped her down the stairs solicitously as if she were a breakable egg looking for a tumble. He was six foot three and she was five foot nothing.

Hugh was good for a turn or two.

Mother needed an hour to go two blocks.  Her stops  along the way to admire an unfurling  rose or to comment on a gardeners’ genius in putting marigolds around the base of a  boulevard maple tree was her way of catching her breath, gathering strength for the next twenty steps. For the boys, these stops became irritations.  “Come on, Grandma!”  “Let’s go !”

Soon Hugh could little afford to spend time walking out with Grandma. He had studies to do, exams to write, research to get from the library. He wasn’t home.  Ron was getting up early to go to work and arriving home exhausted. He had to sleep. “Couldn’t you do it, Kay?”

Kay (that’s me) was getting up at six, getting herself dressed and ready for work, getting mother dressed and ready for the day, getting breakfast and getting out the door; coming home at six from a long day’s work, getting dinner and then it was too late for strolls in the neighbourhood streets.

Our housekeeper times were increased to give mother some company and some reassurance more often during the week and to take her out walking.

Battle strategies had been adjusted. The siege was on. The portcullis in the back yard (the gate) must always be closed. From the arrow slots (the kitchen window) , all lane traffic needed to be monitored. A car driving from the south past the garage or a lane pedestrian must appear on the north side or an reconnaissance party would need to be sent out to investigate what had happened to it. If no one was there to do it for her (she wouldn’t go), it would cause anxiety and dread.

Bit by bit, the house had turned into a defensive fortress. The alarm was set. The doors were reinforced with additional locks. Grills were installed on the basement windows.  There was Lexan reinforced glass on the kitchen door. The castle walls that surround us, the moat, the portcullis, the guard,  the drawbridge were all prepared for an independent lady living in the wicked city.

Her adventure on Baillie Street had marked her for the rest of her life. The story of the man on his bicycle, like the blizzard of 1931,  became legend, oft repeated, to those who would  listen. A mantra of fear in the city.


One Response to “A perilous walk”

  1. bluedragonfly Says:

    I love reading your writing, I just wish I had more time to read it in.

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