© Maureen Smith, July 2021

There she is again. Sitting alone in her maroon overcoat and green hat, head bowed, one leg crossed over the other and hands on her knees. She was sitting on that park bench yesterday too. At first, when I passed her on my way to work, I didn't give her much thought, but now I'm curious to know why she's so sad and dejected.

She appears lost. I wonder if she lost someone. Her husband maybe? That would cause her overwhelming grief, to lose a partner of so many years, the shared experiences, the chats over a cup of tea, the warm body in bed. Or even more heartbreaking maybe she has lost one of her children, or grandchildren? That would tear her apart, as we age, we are not supposed to bury our offspring. Maybe she's lost herself - her youth and vitality swallowed up by the years, sight and hearing failing, lack of mobility and the constant nagging ache of arthritis. Maybe life has sucked all the life out and she feels spent, after years of service to others there's nothing left. Maybe she has dementia and doesn't remember where she lives? Or she could be homeless. That would explain why she sits on the park bench soaking up the morning sun as the nights have been so chilly. I wonder where she sleeps, too many older women are homeless these days, it's an inditement on our society.

I check my phone and notice I'm a little early this morning so I have time to approach her and see if I can help in any way. But wait, what if she wants me to give her money, or pours her heart out to me for an hour and makes me late for work? As I hesitate, standing on the spot staring at her trying to make up my mind, a little boy runs up to her and taps her on the shoulder. She looks up, and I see her red swollen eyes and the tear stains on her cheeks. My throat has a lump that I can't swallow and as I start to walk over to her, I hear what the little boy says:

'Missus, I found your dog, Scottie. We saw him at the shopping centre this morning, and he looked lost and real hungry. Mum said she recognised him from when you walk him in the park. Here's Mum now, with Scottie.'

The old woman stood up, threw off her mantle of despondency and ran with arms outstretched towards the dog straining at the leash and barking with obvious delight. She scooped Scottie up into her arms and nuzzled his furry head, her eyes filled with tears of joy.

It was my turn to have wet eyes.

Maureen Smith ©