by Gail Tansill Lambert
The sky was dark as charcoal and the air was still. Disregarding the signs of a downpour, I strode down the hill daring the elements to rain on me, foolishly enjoying a slight breeze that suddenly kicked up. Nobody was outside. I left my cell phone at home and had not thought to leave a note for my napping husband. If it thunders and rains and I slip on the wet, it will be my fault when he doesn’t know where to look for me. My peace of mind vanished. I concentrated on not falling over a stick or slipping on a patch of mud on the sidewalk. I hunched over looking for dangers in my path.
I saw a man down the street with a leashed dog coming toward me, then he left the sidewalk to let me pass. Oh, it was Mack, a boy who had grown up in the neighborhood and knew my two younger sons. As we got closer, he recognized me and stopped.
“Hello, Mack,” I said.
He frowned. “I’m Kevin Martin.” He wore all black and on his cap stood out a pirate’s skull and crossbones. No accounting for taste these days.
“I knew that. I don’t know why I called you Mack. I’m sorry, Kevin.” His pit bull looked up at me.
As if to identify himself further, he asked about my boys by name, and I started to relax. The anniversary being on my mind, I told him about my youngest boy’s wife, who died a year ago. It had been a hard year, a terrible year.
Kevin stared at me—speechless for the moment. “What happened? What …” He was still young enough to think that death was for his parents’ generation; not yet his. My Robert, a year younger, would tell him otherwise. As Kevin edged closer with questions, his dog began to chew the grass. “Hey, don’t do that.” He smiled indulgently, telling me that every time he stopped on a walk, the dog would chew on grass like a grazing cow.
I laughed, but still believed that dogs ate grass when they were sick, and I told him so. I could tell he disagreed, but he changed the subject. “You wear the same shoes I do. I wear mine all the time.” He wiggled his foot to display his Croc. They were sort of like mine, but sported a dark camouflage print as opposed to my bright flowers.
”They’re easy to clean – just turn on the faucet or get out the garden hose,” I offered.
“Watch that they don’t get wet inside, though. They get slippery and all you can do is take them off.” He looked up. “It’s raining. I’d better get this dog home.”
“Oh dear – it’s really coming down.” I started to walk fast, then thought the better of it. For heaven’s sake, my shoes already feel wet and slippery inside. Don’t twist an ankle and fall. I tried to go faster without hurrying, mimicking my Latin bumper sticker that cautions drivers behind me with the dictum Festina Lente. ( Make haste in a rather slow way)
Finally up the hill and back on my street, the rain slowed down and so did a car, which came to a stop in the street beside me. A woman rolled down her window and called out to me.
“Ma’am, could I give you a ride to the end of the block?”
“No, but thank you anyway.” I could hardly see through rain-streaked eyeglasses. She drove away slowly. I wanted to shout to her, “The rain’s about to quit and I didn’t want to drip all over your seat cushions!”
A shirtless teen pedaled by me on his bike. Ah, rain on bare skin. He must feel as free as an eagle in the wind, like Nikki Giovanni, poet and University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, who spoke at a celebration I attended for the resurrection of the literary journal Artemis. She appeared to be in love with life, free and unencumbered by possessions and the expectations of others. She had chanted “God is good” and other lines I didn’t remember. Yes, He is. The year of my daughter-in-law’s death had passed and the family was still being blessed with the love of seemingly everyone in their small town.
I finally made it to the house, spreading muddy water and wet leaves from my shoes in the front hall. I took off my drenched blouse and hung it in the basement. Upstairs I toweled off my hair. Ah, sweet rainwater in my hair straight from heaven.
That evening my dried hair was as soft and silky as a baby’s. Hair like new – a gift from heaven. “God is good ALL the Time.” That’s the part I had forgotten. Yes, Nikki, God is good All the time, not just when the sun is shining.