White hair when you’re 70

I saw her nervousness when I pulled in the snowy drive, five minutes early but she must have been watching for me because she was at the door before I even stepped out of the car, into the cold.

I tracked snow across her oriental rugs, into the kitchen. She hung up my coat, opened her box of teas for me to pick one. I greeted her dog and tried to set her at ease.

“I’m not good with words,” she told me. A stroke years ago make some words escape her now, she said, but I certainly couldn’t tell. Not once she got going, anyway.

She leads a grief counseling group at a church in town, and when she gets going, she leans forward a bit, her eyes locking on mine.

And I noticed the rings on her fingers, a small one set with a turquoise on her pinky finger; the light scarf tied loose around her neck, dark against the white of her sweater. She finally let her hair go white, now that she’s 70. It’s finally time to have white hair.

I was glad I decided against wearing my Steeler’s t-shirt, the gray one with the long sleeves. I felt strangely under dressed as it was, in jeans and boots to ward off the winter chill beside her more formal attire.

I marveled at the contradictions. She’s so afraid to be interviewed but so eager to talk about this work, about the healing she sees unfold from week to week. She’s afraid of groups, yet she leads them. She hates to pray out loud, but it’s part of her job description. She absolutely won’t get her picture taken, will worry all weekend about the picture we’ll take of her next week, but calls me as soon as I sit back down at my desk to make sure we have the time settled.

She hugged me when I stood to leave. “I’m a huggy person,” she said, and I was glad because it meant that at the end of this hour, she wasn’t so nervous.

I backed slowly down the snowy drive, into the road. And when I glanced back at the brick ranch house set back far from the street I saw her again, standing in the doorway, watching me.



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Filed under Notebook sketches, People

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