A few weeks ago, I went out to the ocean. I followed the path that my little dog, Gigi and I use to take. It was exactly a year, since she passed. It had been a hard 12 months accepting that she was really gone. But it was time to throw away my sadness and just remember all the good times we shared. I’ve had many dogs throughout my life, but Gigi was the one that grabbed my heart the most and when she left, a piece of me went with her.
It was a cold, windy, rainy morning. I pulled my coat tight, as I made my way to the shore. I felt tears mix with rain running down my cheeks. I started to walk to the rocks. I noticed that a woman was walking towards me with a little white dog. Our winter coats were almost the same color blue, her hair was a darker grey than mine. The only difference is that she was with a dog and I was alone. She stopped and started to say something, she must have noticed my tear streaked face. She seemed to understand that sometimes you just have to go to the ocean to cry. As she passed, she said, “The ocean is always beautiful, no matter what.”
Her room is the first one on the right. A light above her door blinks, signaling that she needs help. I stop and look down the long gray hall. Rooms of old sick people. I turn into her room.
A tiny woman is sitting up in bed, almost lost in a disarray of blankets and pillows. Her snow white hair is cut short, sticking out at all ends. She finally notices me standing there. “Can you help me get up?” she asks in a small voice.
I help her to the bathroom. She walks hunched over. She can’t be more than five feet tall. When I reach the bathroom door, she firmly tells me that she will take it from there.
I go and ready her chair. I put a blanket over the cold, slippery vinyl. I bring her table with her lotions and hand mirror closer. I see her peeking out the bathroom door and guide her over to the chair. I place a pillow behind her back and wrap a blanket around her shoulders. She smiles up at me. Her ice blue eyes are almost lost in the lines and wrinkles of her face. Her eyes are the color of a northern lake in early dawn. Her eyes twinkle as she thanks me.
“God, how old is she?” I ask myself, as I place her call light next to her. I tell her to press the red button if she needs anything. She asks for the book that she left on the bedside table. We talk awhile about the book and how we both like to read. I turn to go. She opens her book and puts on her glasses.
I return later to change her bed. The book is lying open on her lap, her glasses have slipped down her nose as she naps. All of a sudden she seems so familiar to me. I run my fingers through my own silvery-white hair and think of the book tucked away in my locker. I wish I were somewhere else. I wish I was reading. I quietly go over to her table and pick up her mirror. I see my face so much older now. I look into my own eyes. My eyes use to be blue, now they are more of a hazel and I don’t think they twinkle anymore. I suddenly realize that I do know this woman. I know her as well as I know myself.
High tide was on its way in as I walked along the beach. I picked up pieces of sea glass, smooth, white, translucent and oddly shaped.
I remembered the old Jewish woman, whom I walked the beach with. Most of our days began with a walk by the shore and just as many ended there too. Together, we would retrace our steps looking for shells and sea glass.
We walked and talked. Words I will always remember, but words she will always forget.