Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dulcinea and Quixote

Dulcinea and Don Quixote

My seventy-one year old friend cuts a quixotic figure atop the adult-tricycle. Lean and tall and oversized for the trike, he wobbles ahead of me like a proverbial Quixote aboard a small donkey. Aware that he might look silly, he does not care. He is fixated on trying to get the rhythm right, given his last hip surgery, but more especially, given the oversized prosthesis-looking boot on his right foot. Since his stroke my friend has had great difficulty putting any weight on that ankle. He's gone through various programs and seen various experts, but with no relief. The knee high plastic boot slides into an oversized shoe, but the dimensions of his foot won't allow now for the front wheel safely to steer. His life now very truncated from being an active sportsman, hiker, and cyclist, my friend soldiers on. His immediate concern, however, is to get the contraption under him to obey his will. But after several tries we give up. The trike is too small. And then she appears on the corner, a woman of his age, the sunlight in her silver hair. Dulcinea.

Somewhat behind him, and being a faithful sort of smaller Sancho these past twenty-plus years of our friendship to my friend's height and age I note the interchange between the two. Living in the same neighbourhood complex they know each other and each other's spouses from several years past; I am the new face, but I am not here introduced. The distance between Dulcinea and Quixote is too great, and as they pass pleasantries across the road of the familiar I busy myself with adjustments to my own trike. She is perhaps eighty, tall, stately, silver-haired, carrying a shopping basket, and neatly attired in a dark below-the-knee skirt and a white collared blouse that flutters in the breeze from under a petite jacket. She radiates an interest and energy in the new contraptions, smiles across the distance at me, then excuses herself and glides away. She needs to get back to her husband, I learn. He has Parkinson's disease. She is his main care giver.

The next morning my friend phones. Dulcinea is in the hospital. Last night she had a stroke. Her husband is alone. My friend and his wife will visit the hospital again in the afternoon; my friend's wife was there last night. Our poor golden-lit lady of yesterday afternoon's sunlight is now paralyzed on one side. Life is not fair.

My friend can still drive. He picks me up in his car in front of my apartment and we go to our mid-day rendezvous at the swimming pool. We've discovered this joint get-together that gives us exercise, immerses us now in the amniotic-like fluids of getting our old limbs re-co-ordinated, that rejuvenates our being. We get lung-fulls of air. Life is not fair.

Dulcinea perhaps never knew the impression she had on me. She perhaps did not give that quixotic moment of our meeting a second thought. Nor did I. But now, from where I sat upon my creaking steed she represented an essential vitality that still resonates with me: an older person, beautiful in her energy, interested in others, interested in things, in life, and caring to reciprocate a smile across the distance when she didn't need to. That she should so be struck down seems so very unfair. But then again we needs accept that which is. Still, I wonder, did Quixote himself not find his very passion riding upon the view of seeing things not as they are, but as they might or at least ought to be? Hmm?

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