She wears a dark blue raincoat on this cloudy day, and a lighter blue cap, something out of the sixties. I can imagine her then, a young woman, wearing one to a party, dazzling with her golden hair and brilliant smile, charming them all.

Now her hair is white. And white tennis shoes. Always the white shoes.

And alone. Always alone. Except for the dog.

Her dog is smallish and also white, like most of the dogs in this community. For some reason, they are the canine of choice, maybe because they don’t eat much or fit just so on an eighty-year old lap.

As she walks, she sways side to side. Maybe her hips don’t work as they used to or she is shielding her knees. Still she walks. Twice a day. Every day. At a good pace relatively. Holding tight to the leash. As though something about it keeps her upright.

I walk past her and smile, saying Good Afternoon. She doesn’t seem to recognize me, though we have passed a few times before. Her face brightens and she smiles, but she doesn’t speak back. Unused now to speaking to anyone, except her children on the phone every few weeks.

She is alone. Always alone. Except for the dog, who is now the beneficiary of all the love and care she has stored up since her husband passed.

So she walks every day. Rain or shine. In peril of falling every step it seems to me. I worry for her.

She is alone. Yet there are many like her here in this community. She passes them every day. They have never spoken yet they know each other.

As she passes me, I turn and watch for a second.

Maybe this is not her story. Maybe she has a family close to her, who visit most days, like my next door neighbor. Maybe her husband does the laundry and she walks the dog for exercise. I don’t really know.

But as I imagine her, she is a reminder.

And a warning.

And an inspiration.

I will find my blue cap.