by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger | bio

So there I was, charging down a busy New York street, passing pedestrians with less than warm and fuzzy feelings concerning their leisurely pace.

I’ve got things to do, places to go. I’m often just a tad behind schedule because I’ve managed to cram an extra errand or meeting between the seven or eight things I’ve done that day. Sometimes I’m also talking on the phone. I’m always on the run, and I love what I’m doing.

I’m crossing near the glorious Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, and something, somebody moves past me at a perfectly safe distance, at a perfectly normal pace -– and I flinch! Just a little flinch; but, still, an involuntary, almost imperceptible squeeze of my heart. Oh, yes, and a crunch in my perpetually aching neck.

It happened a couple of times in the last few weeks. The most recent time it reminded me of my mother, who died more than 20 years ago.

She was already spending most of her time in Florida when she was younger than I am now. I used to be amused — and a little sad — that what I mistook for newfound provincialism made her a scaredy cat. After all, I’d learned my hard-charging ways churning after her when I was a little thing. My father, much older than she, had been flinching since I became aware of him. But, then, he was afraid of his own shadow.

I’ve just had my annual physical. Knees jerk appropriately. Pupils perform correctly. Other little issues getting no worse.

So what is this flinch? A mindless reflex, like a newborn’s? Could it be a life-cycle thing that the doctor didn’t pick up? Maybe the beginning of the slide into Depends and Pablum (remember that cereal?).

Or: Am I becoming more sensitive to possible dangers? More aware of my mortality? Could this little move I’m praying no one has noticed -– particularly not my daughter –- be a good thing? A sort of post-graduate sense of possibility combined with a worldly savoir faire?

We’ve seen so much coming at us over time, maybe we’ve finally learned to duck just enough to stay on the right side of the grass. Well, that would make it a skill, then, right?

That’s it. I’m going with skill.

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  • Laura Sillerman July 5, 2007 at 11:41 am

    As if Elizabeth deserved another skill! This is so beautifully observed and written, and such a personal and brave portrayal of the ways in which growing older brings new companionship, even as we walk alone through city streets