The Early-Morning Walks

Carol still grieved the loss of her husband, Bill. Twelve months had slipped away, but forty-six loving years of marriage wouldn’t allow her to let go of her beloved. Living without him was like living without air. Sadly, they couldn’t have children of their own and Bill wasn’t keen on adopting. So, they lived their life together spending time in the outdoors and traveling when they could. At seventy-three years old, Carol recognized that her friends circle had shrunk. She had several acquaintances to occasionally meet for lunch, but she no longer had that best friend to rely on for laughter or tears or to confess her deepest anxieties. The friends she thought would be in her life forever had drifted away like the wind carrying a lonely leaf over a meadow. But Charlie, her friendly pug, needed love and attention, so he filled that role in this chapter of her life. She talked to her furry friend all the time and he was an intent listener. She swore that he could understand every spoken word. He was quick to pick up on her emotions by giving her a lick on her cheek or a nudge from his tiny wet nose.

Because of Charlie, Carol couldn’t wallow in the stronghold of sadness. By eight o’clock each morning, she had locked the door behind her, and she and Charlie were walking around the neighborhood. She had remained in pretty good shape and maintained to keep it that way. Carol and Charlie usually spotted Jenna who lived around the block and who was the first to introduce herself over a decade ago. During that initial conversation, Carol learned that Jenna was married to Tom, and they had one son, Jack. They had moved into their home shortly before the two women had met.

It was a Friday morning when Carol and Charlie were about to reach Jenna’s house on their walk. She was standing by her car but walked over to meet them. “Hi Carol, it’s good to see you,” Jenna said as she bent down to pet Charlie on his soft little head.

“Hi Jenna, how are you? Why the long face?”

“Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news…Tom and I are getting a divorce. I haven’t seen you all week to tell you.”

“Oh, I’ve had a nasty cold that kept me inside. I’m so sorry, Jenna! I didn’t see this coming!

“I didn’t either, even though we’ve had some rocky moments. But after Tom and I talked, we thought it was for the best. I’m glad you’re feeling better, but I wish I had happier news to share.”

“Don’t worry about me. I feel bad this is happening, but it’s good you and Tom reached an agreement. I hope you’re staying in the house…”

“Actually, I’m moving out, but Tom didn’t ask me to. It’s my choice. I already found an apartment where Jack will live with me part of the time, and the move is Sunday.”

“This weekend? That’s so fast, Jenna. I’m at a loss for words, except that I’ll really miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too, and our morning chats. You and Charlie need to take good care of each other.” Jenna wrapped Carol in a good-bye hug before the two women parted ways.

Carol felt the beginning of tears pushing through as she and Charlie continued their walk. She would miss her friend, but she was also saddened by the news of their impending divorce. So many young couples were separating, and these statistics made her heart ache. She missed Bill so much and wondered, why can’t couples find what we treasured for what felt like a lifetime? Ironically, Jenna had been friendlier than many of the new residents in the neighborhood – one of the reasons Carol felt a pang of sympathy and concern for this lovely young woman.

The neighborhood had changed since Bill and Carol moved into town decades ago. She recalled former neighbors with nostalgia. Mr. Angelino across the street no longer played his accordion – no music flowed from his backyard patio. Mrs. Miller didn’t toss saltwater taffy from her kitchen window for the youngsters; her kind gesture always brought high-pitched laughter that could be heard over the noise of cars rolling up and down the street. Then there was Mrs. Arnold who extended a generous invitation to the neighbors for a swim in her pool that amusingly resembled a kidney. Her joy in cooling off in the aquamarine water on those scorching summer days should be shared with others; that’s how she saw it. I enjoyed so many refreshing dips thanks to kindhearted Mrs. Arnold. These three lovely friends had passed away long ago, and these times are now distant, precious memories. Therefore, Jenna’s affable demeanor brightened Carol’s days. And now Jenna’s moving, she thought with a heavy heart.

Younger couples lived in these older homes now, but they seemed nonexistent. They were probably busy with their jobs, and occasionally, the cries of a baby escaped through billowing curtains. Maybe computer screens had become their new companions. Computers are terrific tools, but they can also be sneaky time thieves! When Carol does happen to see any of these young people, they don’t smile or wave much, not like her old neighbors did.

The following week when Carol and Charlie spotted Jenna’s house on their walk, it was apparent that Jenna had moved out. Her green SUV no longer hugged the curb in its normal spot. Two living room chairs, a worn sofa and ottoman, and a dresser sat on the dried-up brown grass. The roses and lantana in the front yard that once blossomed in soft pinks and rich reds had wilted, looking sad and forlorn. Tom’s black truck was still there, sitting in the driveway. But the tan stucco house looked exhausted, probably from emotions pulling its walls in several directions.

It was Thursday of that week when Carol paused for a moment…I want to believe this house could tell joyful tales from the past, but now I feel that if this house could talk, it might shed a tear or two from the second story windows, and those tears would fall into the neglected garden.

Carol missed Jenna, a bright light on those early-morning walks. Perhaps after experiencing the loss of my old friends, then losing Bill, Jenna’s move is one more loss added to the list. It’s a heavy burden Carol will have to bear but then let go of when the time is right. She was aware the stages of grieving differ for everyone.

Despite my own sadness, I hope this family can gather courage for acceptance of a new trajectory that lies in their future. I suppose I need to do the same thing. A year has come and gone and I’m no better off than the day I scattered Bill’s ashes on his favorite mountain.

Charlie nudged Carol out of her deep thoughts with his tiny wet nose as they began to turn another corner.

Lauren Scott (c) 2021

44 thoughts on “The Early-Morning Walks

  1. This story validates some essential facts of life… It goes on despite the losses and sad moments don’t last forever. We have to learn to live and accept the harsh, unforeseen realities. Well-penned Lauren. Stay blessed.

    • Your takeaway is exactly what I had hoped to achieve from writing this story, Balroop. It’s a story of love, loss, friendships, and moving forward. You’re right…we have to learn to live with the hurt and find a way to move forward. Thank you for your insightful words and wishing you a wonderful weekend. 💞

  2. I enjoyed the story even though it hit close to home. It lends some support to the lyrics of a John Mellencamp song about Jack and Diane. “Life goes on even when the joy of living has gone.” Thanks, Lauren.

  3. Very much in line with what is happening in our modern society. It was Toffler the social scientist who predicted the hurry up handshake of today’s world. People pass through our life with too much rapidity these days leaving an empty space in our life.

    • Thank you for such a profound reply to my story, Ian. So true and thought provoking. It’s acknowledging those empty spaces by finding the courage to move forward that is essential to our well being, but also challenging. I appreciate your thoughts and have a good weekend.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Binky. Life isn’t always rosy, as they say. But we have to find a way that works for us to move forward from those difficult and hurtful times. Have a good weekend!

  4. This is such a beautiful story, a bit sad though, but lovely penned. About relationships and loss. We all go through hard times and sometimes we are stronger together to deal with it.
    Much love to you Lauren.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Marie. The story is a bit sad, but life can be at times, so we have to find our own way through those dark events. But there is hope at the end when Carol realizes what she needs to do in order to move forward. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. Love and hugs to you and have a wonderful weekend.

  5. This story is well written, Lauren. The first half sounds like the story of my childhood friend who is in London. I wish to be close by to keep her company. The second half sounds like my neighborhood. Our neighborhood looks like a huge apartment with doors closed. No more people gathering on the sidewalk to chitchat. No more saying ‘hi’ across the street. I’m glad to be a part of two groups where I find friendships.

    • Thanks so much, Miriam. I’m glad you liked this story about how Carol’s life has changed. I’m sure many neighborhoods are like yours and the one described in the story. Times have changed, and technology has progressed rapidly, which I feel makes a difference. It’s all about finding that balance. Have a good weekend.

      • Exactly, Lauren. Younger people spend more time on social media. They don’t have the habit of making friends in the neighborhood. We visited and welcomed the new neighbors but the communication didn’t last too long. A great weekend to you.

      • My older granddaughter is four. My daughter only let her watch ONE movie a week. I almost got in trouble by letting her watch two when I babysat the two girls. She doesn’t even let her hold the phone to look at too many photos. They do a lot of outdoor activities. Hope my granddaughters won’t be like many young people in my neighborhood. Keep fingers crossed, Lauren. 🙂

      • It doesn’t sound like she will, Miriam. My husband and I don’t have grandkids yet, but my sisters do. They’re 10 & 11 years older than me. Anyway, one of them struggles with prying her grandkids from their devices. She is active outdoors: swims, hikes, rides bikes, so she gets them outside but it’s so hard, especially when her ways aren’t reinforced at home with her son and his wife. My fingers are crossed for you too. 🙂

    • I know, that would’ve been nice if they could’ve worked it out. Unfortunately, that’s not always reality. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Robbie. I’m trying a little fiction and this is how the story unfolded. 🙂
      Have a good weekend!

  6. You’ve captured so much in Carol’s story, Lauren. The way of the world and computers replacing people and simple human contact and exchange. I can well identify with Carol sometimes feeling like there’s no air. ❤

  7. A beautifully captured story of life today. So many layers were touched on while highlighting how fast and complex life is today. The simple act of asking how someone is and pausing for as long as it takes to hear the answer can be lost. Loss and life flowing on regardless. Bless, Charlie and you, lovely Lauren. ❤ xXx ❤

  8. Sad and true. Happy, yet blue.
    Life experiences many colours.
    My idea of reading 1 poem from your book every morning, with my morning coffee is my way of walking the dog. This routine, a rich ritual each morn will be my dog walk.
    I say this because after reading the intro, and your first write I decided I would read a poem (maybe 2 if …) with my early rising coffee sounds satisfying.. Nothing is to be rushed, and treasures to be thought about.
    Thank you, Lauren. I’m so excited about this! xoxo

    • Thanks, Resa, and what a lovely way to read my book too. I hope you enjoy the collection of memories both as poems and stories. I know some have read through it in one sitting, and others are reading a few at a time. I love your words: Nothing to be rushed, and treasures to be thought about. Thank you! ❤️

  9. A good portrayal of life, love, friendships, aging, change, loss, and discovery! Such things we all end up experiencing eventually if we live long enough. Well done, my friend. ❤ This gives one a lot to think about!

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