The Old Man

Making deliveries to Mill Valley in the early morning before 7am is a trial and a testament to owning my own business. The drive there is fine. The Golden Gate bridge is majestic and vibrant, it’s orange red hue breaking thru the fog. Every time I drive over the bridge I send a prayer hello to a friend who died jumping off the bridge at the halfway point. I trust Russell to be my bridge angel and to ensure my safe passage. Mt Tam is in the distance enshrouded with fog. The car lights are on and I’m listening to a book on tape. Hopefully nothing too engaging . I don’t want to become so absorbed I miss my exit.

And we’re off at E. Blithdale, and I drive thru the picturesque northern california town, that seems so Californian to this born and bred New Englander. The redwoods rise solemnly by the sides of the road as I drive further onto the hillside. Curving around the tiny , narrow road with no where to stop I notice headlights following closely, too closely in my rear view mirror. The white van that I had noticed three blocks before is still on my bumper on this deserted road early in the morning.

There are a couple of platform driveways built onto the hillside up ahead. If I’m lucky one will be empty and I can pull over, let the white van pass and turn my trusty honda pilot with only 7,000 miles around, drop off my meals (chicken soup, kale and sweet potatoes for my clean eater, packaged in glass containers to avoid BPA’s and nasty plastics, carried up 64 steps and dropped at the front door.)

I pull over. The van blocks me in. A moment of curious panic hits, the kind of heightened awareness of hair standing up on the back of my arms and neck. I draw in a deep breath and exhale. What’s this I wonder? I drove carefully, and didn’t piss anyone off that I’m aware of…not that that means anything.

I sit. I wait a few minutes, my hand on my phone and I look outside. Gazing at the van I can see an older dog wagging it’s tail and poking it’s head out the window. Well, a dog waging it’s tail, no one yelling at it to shut up or get down, that’s a slight good sign. The dog is small, white and fluffy. The fur has the yellow cast of a mature dog who’s fur has once been snowy white, much like an old lady.

I wait a few minutes more. It seems foolish to call 911 over this–ridiculous, really. So I get out of my car, phone in hand trying not to think of all the crime books that I have read and love to read. I approach the window and peer in. An old man is in the driver seat. I notice that the vehicle is newer and reasonably clean with tinted back windows. I don’t notice the license plate.

I tap on the glass. The driver has not noticed me yet. The dog continues to jump up and wag it’s tail. It’s a girl dog, I think to myself. The man looks up, ‘Excuse me, Can you move? You are blocking me in.”

I don’t know where to turn around he says, speaking with pent up frustration. “Just follow the road up about ½ a mile and you can turn around” I explain, wondering still why he blocked me in on a remote road at 645am.

Did you see what happened to me back there? He asks. No, I didn’t I reply. He pulled off his baseball cap exposing a white bald head with the skin stretched tightly across his skull. ‘I hit my head,’ he said. I’m sorry to hear that I reply. Do you need help? Can I call someone for you or call 911?

No, no, he replied. Where do I turn around again? ‘Just up ahead . Follow the road. It curves up and then around to a space where you can turn around. ‘ I reply. He shoves the cap back on his head and before I can say anything more throws the vehicle into drive presses on the gas and the van lumbers off, lurching slightly as it exits the hollow where he had parked.

I walk back to my car, shaking my head to rid myself of the heebie jeebies. My heart beat starts to slow down. I do watch way too many crime shows I tell myself. But man! That could have gone in so many different unsavory directions. It shakes me up a bit–and I finish my delivery, up the 64 steps and back on my way home with a greater awareness of my own fragility and vulnerability.

I let myself in my front door and smell the aroma of dark coffee and hear the kids giggling and chasing each other. I take a deep breath of all the goodness that I am surrounded by. I. am. So. lucky. Each day we have a plan of how we think the day will go, but really we have no control, just good intentions and the ability to control our response to the ebb and flow of our lives together.

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