“Are you sure you don’t want us to go get the car?”
“No. I can make it. Besides, it’s too cold to wait. Let’s just get going.”
The two couples headed into the crosswalk. Our daughter and her husband Ryan were up front. We followed, Jeff leaning on my right arm. The walk signal was short lived and the four of us quickened our pace. I could feel by the tug on my arm that I was a half step ahead of my husband. I slowed my pace a bit. It was hard to do, knowing what was about to happen.
The weather had been much warmer earlier in the day. Jeff decided not to wear his jacket, a decision he was regretting now. It hadn’t been bad when we went into the restaurant for Jaime’s birthday dinner, but a leisurely meal had given the nighttime an opportunity to settle a chill on the city.
“How much further?” Jeff asked as his feet clomped along. We caught up to Jaime and Ryan for a moment and waited together for the traffic light to change.
“We just have to cross this street and then walk a half block more,” I answered.
Just then the walk light lit up and the four of us stepped out into the road. Again I found myself pulling my husband. “Calm down,” I told myself. “Slow down. The cars can see you. They will wait.”
We stepped up onto the sidewalk. No more curbs to maneuver. A straight stretch now. My mind began to wander. I shivered, trying to throw off the outside cold, but inside I was filled with excitement. I began looking for the entrance to the pub. Jeff held tight to my right arm, and even though his gait was uneven, there was still a predictability to it.
“Man, my left leg is really dragging,” Jeff said. I heard him say it, but I kind of ignored it, seeing how close we were to the door. We were almost there. I looked up at the window and recognized a couple we had just seen at the restaurant. My eyes were anxious to see who else could be seen through the window.
Instead, my eyes jerked from the window to Jeff. I felt his grip on my arm loosen and saw him spin around and fall onto his back, his head hitting the cement hard. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I heard myself say. Was I pulling again? Was I rushing him?
Ryan took hold of Jeff’s arms so he could pull himself up, but that isn’t something Jeff can do anymore. Next thing we knew, someone came running out of the pub, and between the two of them, they lifted Jeff up and gave him a minute to gain his balance.
Jaime just stood there watching. This was something she knew had been happening every once in a while, but had not witnessed firsthand. Her face held a combination of shock and sadness and compassion.
Ryan and the stranger helped Jeff in through the doors and over to a chair. Jaime and I followed. As much as she wanted to follow her dad and make sure he was okay, I whispered that I would take care of dad and that she should just … and as she turned her head she heard shouts of “Surprise! Happy Birthday!” and saw that the place was filled with her friends. She looked at them and smiled, but I could tell that she hadn’t had time to process what had just happened outside. She began walking through the crowd, greeting each of her friends with a hug, but when she saw her brother who was here from California, she hugged long and hard, and let the tears that they would talk about later, flow.