Hold onto your heart.
Or maybe you’ll just want to say, “Awww” like I did.
My heart is holding onto a joy I can’t quite explain. It wasn’t earned, but given. A complete surprise.
My day started with disappointment. My wife is in the hospital after an emergency gall bladder surgery. That was yesterday. Today she was supposed to come home.
But she didn’t. New medical issues came up that had to be resolved. I visited her in the late morning, then decided to get outside, for a drive or a walk. I did both.
I ended up at a local dam, above a reservoir. I had discovered this place on my “Covid sucks, I gotta get out of the house” drives. The dam rises above a beautiful expanse of water, surrounded by a Connecticut forest, of pines, maples and oaks, with some white birch and beech trees growing in the mix. The top of the dam is a flattened, gravel strewn walkway wide enough for five people to walk side-by-side. But there was only me today. Half way across and strolling toward me came two people, each leashed to a dog. They appeared to be, like me, of retirement age. We stopped to comment about the weather ( a beautiful, sunny 71 degrees). I took the opportunity to ask them about a trail I had seen on other trips to the dam; a path that extended beyond the dam top into the woods.
“Do you, by any chance, know where that leads and how far it extends? I asked eagerly. Neither one knew, but the gentleman expressed a desire to find out “One day.” We all nodded, followed by, “Enjoy your day.” and walked in opposite directions- them toward the parking lot; me toward the experience of a new trail.
I don’t walk fast; needing the use of forearm crutches. I do keep up a steady pace. I was wearing too many layers and my bra was already soaked with sweat. I watched my footing, intermittently gazing at the water in the distance below. The gravel soon gave way to soil, strewn with dead leaf fragments and some tree roots. The tall forest canopy rose on either side of the trail, blocking out the sun and the view of the beautiful blue lake. The air was alive with the odors of the earth reclaiming old leaves and fallen trees. In only fifteen minutes the trail opened onto a field with a second dam, but no water. My mind conjured this as an overflow area protecting something unseen beyond it.
The more I walked the more I let go of the worry I’d been carrying for the past thirty- six hours. It felt like I’d been holding my breath for all that time. Now I was able to take a big, deep restorative breath. Barb was in the hands of competent aides, nurses and doctors- her angels.
I concentrated on the task at hand. It took considerable effort for me to scramble up the rocks that formed the embankment. Carefully placing and, sometimes, dragging my crutches, I got to the top of this new dam. Once there, I saw nothing but more forest on the other side. Okay. I walked atop the length of this new earthen dyke. It sloped down until it met the flat field of the trail I’d come in on. This was good enough for me. I stopped to record the babbling of a small brook in the woods. Its gurgling had caught my attention. Satisfied with my outing, I headed back to the first dam and the parking lot.
As I approached my car, I saw another parked next to mine, with the passenger side door open, two people inside. It was the same people I’d seen with the dogs. But that was close to an hour ago! I had been gone exactly 57 minutes, according to the timer I’d set on my watch when I started out. The grey haired woman nodded toward me, then spoke.
“We’ve been waiting for you. Actually, waiting to make sure you made it back okay.”
I was dumbfounded. They had waited all that time, to make sure I was okay? I didn’t even know them.
Her husband explained that when they saw I was using crutches, was alone, didn’t know the trail (neither did they) and no-one else was out there…well, they figured they should wait around to make sure that I came back.
Holy Cow! A warmth spread through my heart. Awww. Who does that?
“I don’t know what to say. That was so very kind of you.” I was humbled by this kindness.
At the same time, my heart was beating and expanding out of my chest, kinda like you’d see in a cartoon character. Thump, thump, thump. I wanted to shout, “Hey everybody, look at these two. Look at what they did… for me.”
“Really, I can’t thank you enough.”
Nancy and John introduced themselves. I learned that they have lived in the area for about ten years. Like me, they often take drives to relieve the monotony of Covid’s restrictions. Sometimes they end up at this dam and do the short walk across the top and back.
For today, they are my angels. Two people who took it upon themselves to make sure that a stranger was safe. I don’t know their politics. It doesn’t matter. We talked about the weather and the unbridled beauty of the area. And they waited 57 minutes to make sure I was safe. Yep.Their compassion and concern touched me. In a world that often seems focused on the negatives, Nancy and John are angels. In disguise, maybe, but angels, none the less!
After two hard days dealing with the hospitalization of a loved one, this was truly a Godsend. That’s what angels are, right?