I was waiting for a bus--the bus stops in NYC are little shelters that have bench seats. An old woman sat next to me and said, "Oh, this feels good." I did a very un-New York thing and said something back to her. Something neutral that I can't even remember.
She then told me that she didn't start feeling her age since her birthday last month. "May I ask how old you are?" I politely asked. "90 on November 25th," she replied. After I expressed some surprise, she then told me how she's been living in a 5th floor walk-up for 42 years. I said, "That must be very difficult to be walking up so many stairs."
However, I was totally thinking of myself when I said that. For the past five weeks, the one elevator in our building has been under repair. I'm old. I have bad knees. I'm out of shape. We live a few flights up.
Then the old woman told me she had a system for walking up the stairs. "I rest. I don't run. Let those teenagers run. The apartment will always be waiting whether I run up the stairs or if I take my time. Why run up and drop dead? The apartment will be there."
I told the woman about our elevator and having to walk up the stairs and that some days it's very hard. There are times when I think I won't make it.
She looked me over. "You're no teenager. Take your time. Your apartment is going to be there whether you make it home in five minutes or fifteen."
The bus pulled into the stop and I asked her if she was waiting for that one. "Oh, no, dear, I'm only resting here." I boarded the bus and, as I got on, I heard the old woman call out to me, "Bless you." I waved at her and yelled, "Thank you and bless you." I don't know if she heard me.
And so I went on my way. Three heavy shopping bags later, I faced the stairs.
As I began to climb the stairs, I thought, "The apartment will always be there. No need to rush." I walked very slowly and put the bags down and rested three times on the way up. I can't say resting so much made it any easier. But I wasn't huffing and puffing and my heart didn't feel like it was going to leap out of my chest by the time I opened the apartment door.
And, just like the old lady said, there was my apartment. Waiting.