The scene is set. A couple is observed walking a path in a city park on a Sunday afternoon. Let’s add that the days are getting shorter with the approach of Winter coming soon. It’s gray with a slight chill in the air as if Fall is ready to give up already. The couple are about to pass in front of an old woman sitting on bench. She is knitting a red sweater. As the couple pass by the old woman, the man begins to cry. Seems like a simple any day scene but why the tears?
Helen had practically begged Ben to go for this walk today. He just hadn’t been in the mood to do anything for awhile. She was afraid he was spiraling deeper and deeper into his depression. It took much cajoling but he had finally agreed. Helen suspected it was just to get her off his back, not her point that it may be one of the last chances before Winter came. It felt great to breathe in the fresh crisp air. Yet the longer they walked the city streets into the park, the day had gotten more and more gray. She noticed Ben’s mood also began to mirror the graying of the day. She promised him just one lap around the lake and they would return home, forget about trying to get him to go for coffee. She feared she had pushed her luck. It is then that Helen became aware of the old woman on the bench. “Oh dear lord. And red on her.” As they get closer, Helen tries her best not to stiffen her hand that’s being held by Ben. She’s about to distract him from locking onto the old woman, who she now realizes is thankfully knitting a sweater, by saying something – anything. She turns to him and sees his tears. Oh shit! Stay calm but we need to get home. She squeezes Ben’s hand and tries to gently pump his arm as if to say, “I’m here. It’s OK.”
Ben had been perfectly fine at home on the couch. One just couldn’t get enough reruns of ‘Law and Order”, or at least that was how he felt. Or didn’t feel. That was the great thing about having that show practically on any channel throughout the day. Now he just watched blankly. He didn’t need to think or feel. That was just fine. But not fine for Helen. She was hellbent on getting me out of the apartment today. Fine, just this once I’ll do what she asked. I couldn’t stand her begging anymore. But it better just be a walk and nothing else. Ben wasn’t in the mood to see people, even if it was to briefly walk by perfect strangers. He had to admit the air had felt nice and a shock to his lungs. Once he had loved this time of the year. But as they continued into the park, he could feel his mood darkening, just like the grayness of the sky. He dreaded Winter coming. As if to try to ward it off, he took Helen’s hand. She mentioned just finish going through the park then they would start home. “Thank God! All I’ve got to do is make it through the park.”, he thought. Then he felt his stomach bottom out. He noticed the old woman sitting on the bench they were about to pass. He could feel his anxiety rising. “Damn she’s covered in red too. What is it? Why is she red? I can’t take it. Her..she…looks…no, I know it’s not…God this was a mistake!” He realized the red was from the yarn of the sweater the old woman was knitting. But by then he had already started to cry. He felt the tears streaming down his face. When would he get to the point that seeing an old woman, any old woman, wouldn’t remind him of his grandmother? It was almost a year since her death, when his grandfather had killed her then himself in an attempt to outrun the Alzheimer’s running its deadly course inside them both. He wanted to run right then. To outrun the memories trying to crash in on him. He felt Helen trying to reassure him through her touch. He had to get out of there. He could feel the memory of finding them that day trying to make it’s way into his head.
The old woman had been coming to that bench, her bench for years now. She wasn’t going to let the increasing chill of the oncoming Winter stop her from sitting there one last time before the snows. She figured she’d do some knitting to ward off the growing chill of the day. Her grandson needed a sweater for Christmas, she thought. She was glad she had packed the nice deep red yarn. The color adding warmth to the sad gray day. It would go so well with her grandson’s black hair, definitely. She smiled to herself while sitting on the bench knitting, reminiscing about her grandson. He wasn’t a little boy anymore but practically a young man having started his Freshman year at college. She sighed to herself wondering where the years had gone and if he’d be too old to appreciate the sweater anymore. She looked up at this point, having heard footsteps. It was a nice young couple. She noticed the man had dark hair too. She made a wish at that moment that her grandson would grow to look as handsome as that young man did. That he’d find a great woman to hold hands with like the couple. But then she caught her breath. The man was crying. Tears just flowing down his face. She noticed he looked at her with such anguish. “Oh my. Have I done something? But what could I, I don’t even know him.” She realized things could look so much different close up versus far away. Such a happy looking couple at first glance. Now the tears. The old woman wondered what was happening. She wanted to reach out to the man as if he were truly her grandson. Comfort him. She went to reach out to him but something made her stop herself. That just wasn’t done these days. Not to a perfect stranger. Instead she put her head down as if concentrating on her knitting. But still she offered up a hope that the man would find the peace he needed. She would call her grandson too that night. Seeing that man reminded her it had been too long and you never know at her age.