We cross the bridge and the kids giggle. They think bumping across the wooden planks is fun. It’s a short bridge though, so the ride doesn’t last long. It leads us to a gravel pathway, which steers us to the park not too far after. I don’t love this park; there is a sand pit with a water pump leading into it and when the water is turned on, Theo goes to town. And I always manage to forget a fresh set of clothes whenever we go there. Still, we go there because the kids love it, it’s on Granville Island which is one of my most favorite places in Vancouver, and because I always hope to run into Ada.
I came across Ada Jefferson back in July, I think. We stopped at the park for a few minutes before Evelyn’s ballet class, which took place in the community center a stone’s throw away from the slides and sand. She was drawn to Theo, with his blonde hair and red overalls and curiosity. She spoke to him in Danish, and smiled at him and I could tell she got some small joy from watching him. As his mother, I can certainly relate. But it gave me a sense of great contentment to see someone else marvel at him.
That was about the extent of our interaction that time. As soon as she left I wished I had talked to her more, or taken her picture. I don’t know what it is about elderly people, but their faces seem to tell a story. Ada’s does. Perhaps it is because they have so many years in their wrinkles that a story can’t help but show through.
But I let her get away that day. That was the day she wore her whitish-bluish nightgown.
A week later, at about the same time, we crossed the bridge again, Evelyn clad in her tutu as we bumped across. We were a few minutes early on purpose. Being that we are creatures of habit, I couldn’t help but hope that Ada’s morning walks took place at the same time each morning. At this point, I didn’t even know her name was Ada. The wood turned into gravel and I craned my neck to see if I could find her. I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t do a little flutter when I saw her. I can’t explain it, but this 90 year old Danish woman just made me smile. She stood at a distance from the park, just watching the children play. She was aptly dressed this time in a brown dress dotted with blue flowers and white tights with a belt clinched around her waist, looked like she might even be wearing her Sunday best with. Then again, her generation wore dresses every day. I snapped a few pictures from afar and was on my way to 3 year olds and supposed twirls and first positions but mostly chaos.
Something pulled me back and I was drawn to talk to her. And she remembered us! I learned her name and age in those few minutes, and that she had a husband namedv Hans George. A-D-A she told me, Ada. Ada Jefferson. Conversation was a bit choppy, as I could tell English probably wasn’t her first language. But I enjoyed talking with her. I then asked if I could take her picture close up, and she said, “What me? An old fart?” She kept repeating old fart over and over, and then would say “I’m old! I’m 90 you know.” Made me smile. She did let me take a few, never really looking at my phone but fussing with her dress and hair. It was quite cute. I nearly died when she reached into her blouse and pulled out a worn pouch, digging around for money. I assured her I didn’t want her to pay me. We were going to be late for ballet, so I told her we had to run but that we hoped to see her soon. She shook Evelyn’s hand and caught me totally off-gaurd by saying, “see you later alligator! in awhile crocodile!”
We’ve run into Ada a handful of times since then. We’ve learned that she loves watching her neighbor’s dog, Archie, when they go out of town. We learned that her dad was born in Germany but is now passed, she’s 90 you know. She has great grandchildren and loves bananas. I’m not sure if she has any other clothes besides the brown dress and nightgown, because that’s all we ever seen her in. She always has a smile for us and seems eager for conversation, but at the same time she appears in a rush. I think she feels like she is bothering us. Couldn’t be further from the truth, but it makes me a little sad that she might feel that way.
I don’t know if being old is lonely and boring and frustrating. But I imagine it could be for lots of reasons. If I’m honest, being old scares me a little bit. So, I don’t know that Ada is lonely or bored or frustrated, but I hope that our interactions may have brightened her day a little if she needed it. She certainly brightened mine.
See you later, alligator.