From Connections: Jill and Fred's excellent adventure
By Darlene Warren
BIG SANDY, Texas--While sitting in a parking lot in Tyler, Texas, last week, my husband and I witnessed a sight from which we still haven't fully recovered. Let me try to describe what happened.
The area surrounding the hospital district in Tyler is comprised of medical clinics, labs, medical-supply stores and nursing-home facilities. Having just pulled into the parking lot of one of these businesses, we took a few moments to sip on cups of McDonald's coffee before going inside for our appointment.
We had been sitting in the van only a minute or two before an elderly couple appeared on the sidewalk, walking in our direction. Even from a distance I could tell the two were elderly by the slow and deliberate pace they set. I'm sure you know what I mean. Unlike your typical mall walkers, these two were more shufflers than fitness freaks. What really drew our attention to them was the way they were dressed.
Well, anyway, as they slowly approached we noticed they both were wearing trendy little backpacks. Hers was a flashy pink slung stylishly over one shoulder. (She seemed to be saying, "I'm old enough to know better and too young to care".) His, a darker, more masculine, type was evenly secured in the center of his back. (He was obviously the more responsible of the two.)
They were dressed in jeans, light jackets, athletic shoes and dark glasses. As they neared, we could tell they were chatting softly and occasionally glancing over their shoulders. Their bodies were old, but something in the way they communicated with each other made them seem young.
I know what you must be thinking, that we must have been staring shamelessly at these poor old people to notice so many details about them. But keep in mind they didn't exactly zip past us. We had plenty of time to study them, and the van does have tinted windows, so maybe we did stare just a little. I'm sure we were late for our appointment. There was no way I way going to miss this parade, even if it was in slow motion.
I guess you could say we've had a considerable amount of experience dealing with this sort of situation. One of our favorite pastimes is observing people and making up elaborate imaginary stories involving complete strangers. We have people who live down the street from us whom we've created entire histories for (educational, marital, medical, employment and such).
We don't spread these tales around, so they can't be construed as gossip. That would be wrong. (When you live out in the country like we do your entertainment threshold filters down to the lowest level.) But this mind-expanding activity can keep you sharp and primed for the unexpected.
There we were, minding our own business, when not so suddenly these two entered the picture. This was obviously a professional job. They had bided their time until a national holiday came along so they would blend in with the other kids loose on the street that day. They weren't born yesterday, obviously.
The thing I will never forget is the look of anticipation and excitement on their faces, and perhaps a little apprehension. I'm not ashamed to tell you I was more than just a little envious of their situation. They obviously had somewhere to go, and when they got there--let the games begin!
I don't know where they came (or escaped) from, or where they were headed (across the border?), but I will always remember them fondly as heroes: role models for those of us who've not yet reached that level of maturity; ready to strike out on their own for the sake of freedom and independence. I can only pray that when I'm that age I'll have at least a portion of the spirit they exhibited. Some of us are old in body, and some of us old in spirit.
Something made me as nervous for them as a parent watching a child competing at a track meet. They exuded the pride and determination of a kid fighting off a fierce competitor in a two-mile race. Although I can't be completely sure, I'm almost positive they picked up their pace just a little at the sight of the nursing-home van rounding the corner. Here's to Jill and Fred's excellent adventure.
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