An Unforgettable Experience
By William McDonald
She might be in her late 60’s, early 70’s. She might be someone’s mom; she might be someone’s grandmother. She might be a lot of things, but what she is, is homeless.
After the incident with the pear, I adopted her.
Let me go back a little.
I used to walk to work. It was Hollywood. It was Hollywood Boulevard.
I’ve never been certain that she didn’t bump into me on purpose. She never admitted it one way or the other but all of a sudden there she was, steadying herself on my arm after “accidently” bumping into me. Her face was dirty. Her hands were dirty. Her hair, a ball of white string, had been finger-combed and hand-patted into place.
But her eyes danced and her smile was as bright as any bulb on the boulevard. I liked her.
She stuck out a dirty hand holding a bruised pear. “Would you like to buy a pear?” she asked in a bit of a singsong voice. “Only a quarter.”
“No, thanks, darlin’, but I would like to give you a quarter.”
She smiled. I bet it would have lit up the Pantages Theatre, just a few blocks away. I gave her a quarter and walked on down the boulevard.
Next morning, same old gal, same dirty hands and I’m pretty sure the same pear. I gave her a quarter. Passed on the pear.
The fifth time, after I had refused the pear, given her a quarter and was walking away, she called after me.
“I know. You want to know why I give you a quarter but never take the pear?”
“No. I want to tell you the pears have gone up to fifty cents.”
Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? But it really happened. I asked her to meet me for lunch at a joint called The Dog House on the corner of Hollywood and Selma. She did.
She did again the week after.
And every week after.
Sure, I could have given her the money to buy her own lunch, but I would have missed an hour a week and a lifetime of memories with one of the most delightful human beings I have ever met.
Lunch with the Pear Lady was the highlight of my week.
She never told me her name. She never told me her story. She never stopped smiling.
Of all the times my heart has been broken, it has never been broken so wide open as it was the day life changes caused me to leave California and the Pear Lady behind.
She is one of the more than 50,000 seniors living on the street. Some days she will eat. Some days she won’t. Some nights she will find a shelter willing to take her in. Some nights she will sleep in a doorway. She will develop medical problems and chronic illness sooner than she should. She has some street smarts but will still be preyed upon by young punks looking for an easy target. She won’t live as long as she should.
The obvious and I have never been well acquainted but it finally dawned on me that even though I can no longer take the Pear Lady to lunch once a week, I can have lunch with one of the other 49, 999 seniors living on the street.
So I will.
Imagine if we all did?
Author at www.oldfriendsendlesslove.com