An old woman knocked on my front door this afternoon. She knocked and knocked and when I did not answer, she knocked some more. At first she knocked on the door and then she knocked on the window with her keys and then the door again. The dogs howled and still she did not leave. Instead she sat in one of the wicker chairs on my front porch and made herself comfortable in the hundred and ten degree heat.
Reluctant, I opened the door, baby in arms, dogs still growling. I knew who she was. She was the same lady who stops cars dead in the middle of the street for a ride. I have picked her up on the corner before, her arms waving back and forth like it is an emergency. My husband has taken her to the farmer’s market. My mother-in-law waited for her to walk up and down each isle of the grocery store just last week. When she stops you, she gives you no choice but to let her in your car. She does not budge.
So when I opened the door, annoyed because I was trying to get the baby down for a nap, I told her I could not take her. I knew she could manage for herself. Sometimes I sit and watch her stand in the middle of the road until someone lets her in his or her car. She is quite capable and here I am, standing on my front porch in the heat with a sleepy infant who does not like the car, listening. The baby smiles, giving her more fuel. Inside I groan.
There are no apologies for waking the baby or causing such a ruckus. Just a straight face and a lot of complaints. Her knee, the blazing sun, her small social security check, her need to go to the store, (which we have learned is always followed by the bank and the post-office and the…). No sympathy when I tell her the (smiling again) baby is fussy. Instead stories about her grandkids making millions of dollars and those years she worked for Harry S. Truman and how her name is Bernice.”Like our street?” I ask. She does not respond.
I look at her clothes, a wool jacket and long pants. I am sweating in just shorts and a t-shirt, anxious to get back into the air-conditioned house. I feel sorry for her but still do not have the time or energy to take her all over town. After all, I have a trip to get ready for, a messy house about to be listed for sale tomorrow, a baby who should be asleep. I accept her phone number and tell her next time I leave the house without the baby I will give her a ride but warn her it might be a bit, I am leaving tomorrow. She finally gives up.
I ask if she has asked any other neighbors, she says no. The new neighbor pulls into the drive and she yells across the yard, the girl stares back uncertain if the woman standing on my porch with me and my baby is really yelling at her. I shut the door and shake my head. I call my husband and complain. I feel bad but she makes no attempt to be understanding. She is not like the other old lady who lives down the street, the one with the old cat who has now passed, who thanks me and apologizes every time she knocks because she remembers what it was like to have a baby with barking dogs.
This old lady pushes, so I push back. It is my nature to push when pushed. But now it is 4AM and I am awake while everyone else sleeps and I wonder if just maybe I should have been a little kinder and done something for her. Growing old sucks. Growing old alone is worse. Maybe I would be that pushy too.