At 84, she was mowing her lawn in a dress and sun hat. We often met each other halfway, in the middle of the side street that divided our properties. She swished her hips a little and let her arms swing, like a 10-year-old who couldn’t keep still. She giggled, sighed and chatted. She wished she had been a striptease dancer, she once said. She scandalized the hair salon telling this same story.
At 90, when she could no longer mow the lawn, the broom became a constant companion. Each day, she swept her driveway, more for chance encounters with neighbors than a need for order. She leaned on her broom as life curved her spine into a comma.
At 94, she cursed her longevity. She outlived everyone except her children. That year, she let me inside her house. She had drawn the curtains against sunrises and sunsets, viewing time inside as fixed, loyal, complicit.
For the past 11 years, seeing Sylvia emerge from her house had signaled spring, like the peonies blooming in her backyard. It is now June and in recent weeks, different cars have parked in her driveway for several hours at a time, while piles of Hefty bags spread inside each trunk.
I learned today that she died in March. March.
The peonies in her backyard bow their heads in the cool air. From a distance, I watch, as Sylvia’s life is slowly extracted, carried in boxes and bags, a little at a time because grief takes over like anemia.