The old couple made a perfect capital ‘Y’ shape as they walked together around the corner and up the hill.
You see, they each had severe curvature of the spine, as though in sympathy with one another. Problem was their spines bent sideways, sending their heads at the top of the ‘Y’ away from their partner, by a good 45 degrees. The man bent right and the woman bent to the left.
From the hips down they walked very closely, often holding gnarled hands.
From hips up their curvatures seemed to create a distance that shouldn’t have been there.
I saw this man and woman on most mornings. They spoke constantly and with animation that I’d more often noted in youth smitten by love. Their old bodies sometimes shook with laughter, but to fully share the joke, glancing sideways and into each others eyes as they walked, would have been impossible.
I looked forward to my regular meandering, and I looked forward to spotting Mr and Mrs Y. My imagination ran riot when I saw them, building stories in my mind.
How difficult would this strange impairment be in their everyday lives?
They say people in a couple tend to grow alike over the years, but this was so unusual as to be almost ridiculous.
They were both almost as thin as sticks, testament to a life of exercise and dietary good sense.
He always wore those very short shorts made of some synthetic stuff that never wears out. The kind that men wore twenty years ago.
His shirt was always crisply ironed and I never saw him wear a hat.
On the other hand his wife demonstrated an acute awareness of the power of the Australian sun. Her skin was nowhere visible except around her eyes and mouth.
The wide brim hat was made of some sort of cotton and flapped as she walked. He pants were full length and again cotton, and a light blouse covered her arms right down to the wrists where a pair of cotton gloves took over. The style of her attire never changed.
This hill was abrupt and my breath became laboured, but Mr and Mrs Y were still drawing away from me. They were very fit, although apparently in their late seventies.
As the road steepened and the view became more broad, I glanced sideways to judge the clouds banking on the horizon to the south west. They were tall and threatening: black with even a tinge of green.
In our summer this could herald fierce thunder storms and even hail with lumps of ice that may be as large as ping pong balls. I’d fired my computer before clapping on my own hat for the walk, so I knew today’s weather would be unsettled …
But clouds in this direction tended to remain to the west and move along the ridge of mountains to plague towns further north. My walk would not be interrupted today.
Our path passed through tree lined streets and gardens where children played and puppies yapped.
I was sweating.
We passed a row of grevillea bushes alive with noisy green and red lorikeets fighting over the tastiest seeds.
These birds are arrogant little beggars who love nothing more than a lazy feed of honey and bread left out by an unwary householder. There were a couple of problems with that – the generosity tended to produce sickness in the birds, for one.
I encountered problem two myself when I began feeding a bird that visited my garden. Within a week I had thirty of the creatures swooping and careering among the native bushes.
I knew I had done the wrong thing when the local paper warned against the practice for the birds’ sake, and I withdrew my largess.
Regardless, for weeks afterwards lorikeets tapped fiercely at my kitchen window insisting on being fed!
The old couple had turned right into a quiet street and I continued on my own way.
There weren’t many people so much in love at that age I mused.
My head was busy imagining a fiery courtship and a huge wedding for them when a fat white rabbit dashed across the road followed closely by a young girl trying to recapture her pet.
The girl had long fair hair and wore a dress with a frothy wide skirt.
Alice in Wonderland …
On my walks I sometimes took a turn into a cul-de-sac that contained some of my favourite gardens.
Today there was a shock. My house of roses looked abandoned with unpruned bushes languid and choked with weeds. Gone the riot of colour and perfume.
Where was the family? There was a good six months worth of weeds in the garden now. What had happened?
I skipped to avoid a dog poo on the footpath and turned towards home.
Even in between walks I often thought about Mr and Mrs Y.
A friend of mine was a member of the local RSL Club where they had a good band and ballroom dancing on Friday afternoons. Lots of oldies turned up and my friend said she’d often seen Mr and Mrs Y among the crowd.
How on earth could they dance together I thought? I was used to seeing them walking with their heads wide apart.
I’d also wondered in my imagination how they got on in their more private and personal moments of physical contact (you’d know by now that curiosity and imagination are my middle names).
One afternoon I was sitting at my computer desk with pen and a fresh piece of white paper, and found myself doodling.
Mr and Mrs Y appeared before me, taking on the character of the stick figures that children draw.
My pen tripped along, producing Mr Y’s skinny legs and Mrs Y’s hat.
There they were: a perfect second last letter of the alphabet.
Then I looked again and the right hand side of my brain came into play: the side of lateral thinking and creativity.
With a flash and an ah-hah, I realised that my fears for the Ys was unfounded. Face to face – for dancing and in love making - they’d be fine!
Does anyone else know a couple who, through the years, have growth alike in some way? Tell me in a comment ...
I'm past my 70th birthday and undaunted.
So far I can look back on probably a dozen different phases in my life, all producing deeply felt experience:
- A barefoot carefree childhood in an Australian seaside town
- Work as a young journalist in the days of hot metal and male chauvinism
- Dipping my toe into real life in Sydney the big city
- Marriage and precious motherhood
- A second career in corporate public relations management
- Another marriage and disillusion
- Battles for financial justice in the law courts
- Re-jigging a career
- At 60 my first university degree (Creative Writing and Australian History majors)
- Fighting sometimes lost causes
- Sneaky aches and pains of the approach of age
- Living on a pension.
All fodder for writing and a valuable background for the development of what could become one day an incisive point of view.
My blogs may become a way of answering the question: 'What's next?'