Noon on a sunny winter’s day. As the traffic slows for a red light, an old lady advances a single step onto the roadway. She is preceded by a man who is older than she. The man steps well out into the path of my car, raising a gesturing hand for me to give way. He steps with shaky determination. His hair is grey, his face is grey, his jumper is the same. He has a soft shapelessness.
The elderly lady for whom he acts as traffic controller pushes a walker, a wheeled gadget that supports her while her good right leg drags the stroke-affected left leg forward.
The lady lacks the relative speed and vigour of her man. He gait is an adaggio – a stride and a drag, a stride and a drag. The lights turn green. The old lady has advanced one quarter of the way across this narrow road.
The old bloke looks up at me anxiously, sees I am waiting, plants himself in mid-road and waits.
The green lights signal to oncoming traffic to come on. They do. The old man stands where the plantation would be – if there were one – and waits. The old lady strides-drags, strides-drags her way to her man’s side. Together they wait, he alert, a sentinel, she fully engaged in the labour of remaining upright. There they stand in their island of unsafety, waiting for the tide of traffic to turn again.
Their passage across a narrow street will encompass five minutes of time and all their resources.
Heroes both, with no dream or thought of their heroism, they are everyman’s dad, everyone’s mum.
Are they you, are they me, in time to come?
Where will I find their courage and resolve?