I was in New York (City) visiting my Dad and had lunch with him at his favorite eating lunch haunt in Mid-Manhattan.
It was one of those gorgeous New York spring days, and I walked back to where my Dad lived. And, as usual, when visiting my father, I was dressed in my “New York best.”
And I found as I walked North, I turned heads.
When my father got home that evening from work (yes, in his eighties, almost to ninety, my father worked, and loved to work), I told him that walking home I had “turned heads.”
He looked at me with that beady, quizzical look of his as if to say “Beany (he used to call me “Beany”), you are a woman of a “certain age,” and women of a certain age simply don’t’ turn heads.”
But I’d say to him, “No, Dad, really.”
When I was down visiting in New York one Christmas, when it was one of those blessed Christmases when it was actually warm outside, my son and I took a cab to his quintessential New York walk-up apartment near 42nd street, to bring back some of the Christmas presents that he had received. And we walked back to where my Dad lived, winding our way though a ridiculously packed Rockefeller Center.
Bakers don’t walk in New York, they stride. And yes, I was dressed up in my New York finest. And my son, who was also striding along side me, would say things like, “Mom, did you see that guy, he was trying to pick you up, and he was half your age!”
He recounted this amazing occurrence to my father when we arrived back at my father’s dwelling. My Dad gave him the same beady, quizzical look. And my son said to him, “No, Poppy, it’s true, really, the guy was half her age.”
When my Dad was ill and dying, I didn’t do any striding around New York City. It was more sort of stumbling blindly. And I noticed something–I sure as hell didn’t turn any heads.
It was as if in my grief, I had become invisible, or if not invisible, then sending out a grief aura, that folks in New York would like to avoid.
I thought of the old saying that goes something like, “When you smile the world smiles with you, when you cry, you cry alone.” (Of course this is not true everywhere, people in other parts of the country actually do respond with empathy to grief.)
And I came up with my own version of the old saying. It goes like this: “When you stride confidently in New York City, no matter how old you are, you turn heads. When you stumble in grief, you become as invisible as the ghost of the loved one that you mourn.”