It was how Barb and I first met. The memory of my first meeting with Barb will be forever burned in my memory. The reason? I have never had another experience like it. I’m not sure I ever will…this is hard to put into words…I’ve tried three times and haven’t quite found the right words to express what I saw in her face and what I felt in my soul. That’s all it took for Barb to become embedded in my soul – one chance meeting at the front gate of a 5 unit townhouse.
Here in the Northern Beaches of Australia, there is a daily paper called The Manly Daily which is delivered for free from Tuesday thru Saturday to every door in the Northern Beaches, some 170,000+ doors! When we first moved into our townhouse in Balgowlah, this was the only paper I had until I decided which Sydney newspaper to subscribe to: The Sydney Morning Herald or The Daily Telegraph…it reminded me of living in Chicago and ironically the Herald is delivered as a normal newspaper and the Telegraph comes as a “magazine newspaper.” Anyway, I walked down the outer gated corridor of the townhouse block to the front gate. We lived at the end in Unit 5 therefore I passed every unit on my way out the front gate. As soon as I made it to the front, a woman was also walking from the first unit to the front gate. For those that know me well, you know I have an inner first impression barometer that can instantly zero in on individuals I meet for the first time. I intuitively know whether they are friend or foe. Barb is the only person who has surpassed that barometer and given me instant peace in her presence. Those that know me also know that when the barometer reading is friend, I will instantly say hello with a massive smile on my face. Barb beat me to it. There was an instant glow in her eyes and a smile on her face that made me want to crawl up on her lap and stay there forever. She seemed so happy to meet me. Her smile was huge and her eyes lit up. This beautiful woman was seriously joyful about meeting me? Yep! That’s just the essence of Barb. Thus began the friendly back and forth of delivering the morning paper to the one that woke up second on any particular day. I also knew that if the paper I put by Barb’s front door was still there at lunch time that I needed to check on her. I usually did this by texting Sharon: “Where is Barb today?” Either she was at one of her children’s homes, had left early that morning for her son’s home in Avalon or maybe an early day in court. This is the Gladys Kravitz in me that comes out wherever I live. I’m observant to a fault sometimes.
It just hit me while writing this that I wonder if we still lived in the townhouse, would I have found her sooner than the speculated 36 hours after she fell. If she fell Sunday night, I would have wondered about her on Monday when her paper was still there. I’ll never know and I won’t speculate…I won’t torture myself in that way. I definitely know that my soul might not have withstood finding Barb as one of her daughter-in-laws did on Tuesday morning.
The reason I started this post this morning was because of a chance encounter I had when I took the elevator to the lobby of our building to pick up my Manly Daily. As I was picking up the paper, the second elevator door opened and I heard, “Well, hello again!” I looked up and there was the sweetest, spriest, smallest elderly woman I had met before when retrieving the paper. I said, “Good morning! May I get you a paper?” Her response, “Sure, sure but I need SEVEN of them.” I said, “Well all-righty then!” As I counted out the papers, she grabbed her subscription paper from her box, another paper from another box and came over to me to get the 7 other papers. She said, “I have a system you know.” Indeed she did – my assumption was a hoarding system and she needed help! As I walked back towards the elevator and turned waiting for her, she had a big smile on her face she said, “You can go on up or wait for me, whichever you want!” I said, “No worries, I’ll wait for you.” She stunned me by walking over to the heap of Manly Daily newspapers to grab another one off the stack. “SERIOUSLY,” I thought, “you want MORE than 7 papers?” This is most definitely a serious hoarding problem. She quickly negated my thoughts by walking to one of the apartments on the ground floor and dropping the paper by the front door. She walked back to the elevator with her massive stack of newspapers and said to me, “She is 90 years old and with this weather (very cold and very rainy) she won’t want to walk out here to get a paper.” Thus began a change in my impression of this assumed newspaper hoarder. I used my security tag to activate the elevator buttons, pushed number 3 and asked her which one she needed. She said, “Oh, push 12. I start there and work my way down. Saturdays can be tricky!” I suspect they are since the Manly Daily can be twice it’s size on Saturdays with a multitude of store inserts. As we reach my floor this lovely woman says to me, “See you soon! Have a good day!” I promptly went into our apartment and began to sob. I missed my first “paper lady.” I just want one more hug, one more glorious smile, one more day, one more hour, and one more cuppa with my first paper lady. I miss you, Barb!