Daryl held on to Cynthia’s hand in a robotic manner. He wasn’t even aware they were holding hands as they strolled through Central Park with the bright noon-day sun peeking through the huge Oak Trees and creating funny shadow creatures everywhere, polka-dots of bright light and deep grays. Cynthia could feel his distant manner but was determined to not let anything dampen her spirits this day. Daryl was home, after three week’s absence, she was almost 25 weeks pregnant with their first child, a son, and a radiance shown out and around her that only a woman with child produces; especially her first child.
Daryl had spent the last few weeks in Boston, with his brother and sister, going through their parent’s home and sorting out their belonging’s after losing them both at once in a tragic car accident involving a drunken driver. As is often the case, the driver had no outward injuries to show from the accident. The deep scars he would carry around the rest of his life were the emotional, hidden wounds he could never erase . The accident had landed him in jail for a short stint and then on to a rehab facility where he was sobering up and facing the consequences of falling off the wagon, yet again.
The accident had disrupted six lives that would require time to adjust and heal. Two , would never recover; Daryl’s mother and father.
Cynthia had attended the funeral with him in Boston then flown back home to New York to continue on with her work-from-home free lance writing job for as long as she could before the baby arrived. She was glad to come back to New York as the heavy emotions back in Boston were hard to be around and Daryl’s unresponsiveness to her attempts to console him. She felt it best to let the three siblings be of solace to one another and attend to the necessary details without her, the outsider, only in the way.
As they rounded the bend at the huge park, following the sidewalk running parallel to The Lake, they both spotted her at the same time. A slight woman, probably in her late seventies, hunched over in deep concentration as her knitting needles “click-clacked” rapidly at the red wool object they were constructing in her lap. They couldn’t help pass her by and Cynthia tugged at Daryl’s elbow, bringing him to a reluctant stop right in front of the elderly woman as they approached her and could see she was kitting some kind of small child’s garment.
Cynthia struck up a quick and upbeat conversation with the woman who inquired of her due date and the sex of their child. Daryl sensed a feeling from the woman that they had interrupted her and that she would prefer sitting there, knitting in her own solitude. He subtlety hinted to Cynthia that they be moving along but she shrugged him off. She needed someone, right then, to help break the pent-up emotions between her and Daryl and persisted in this complete stranger as the source. On and on she went with the woman nodding now and then and offering small tidbits of polite conversation. Finally, the woman laid her needles down on top of the tiny sweater and looked up, catching the pain in Daryl’s eyes. There was an unmistakable understanding that flashed between the two.
A softening occurred in the woman as a subtle smile crossed over her expression. Daryl felt her deep, sincere compassion and that was all it took for his composure to melt. His bottom lip quivered uncontrollably and his shoulders began shaking slightly with the pent-up emotion he’d been holding in for three weeks now. He was the eldest sibling and had to be strong for the other two as well as most of the final arrangements and decisions fell upon him. So much business to take care of at a time like that. He had not given himself any time to mourn. That look the woman on the bench gave him was an invitation for the walled up dam to break lose. Daryl felt himself melt, all his feelings pouring down his cheeks, even through his nose. Water was running everywhere and the mask he wore, once cracked, melted in uncontrollable waves of anguish. He had no control over his muscles, nothing in his taut body would obey him. He was melting everywhere.
Seeing this, the woman motioned for Daryl to sit beside her on the bench. Gathering some composure, his first thought flew to Cynthia who was growing heavy with child and at first he resisted and motioned for her to sit, but the weakness in his knees bade him sit.
In low tones, Daryl explained to the woman on the bench what had happened three weeks ago. As he told his story, the details sprang up again, reminding him of the horror of that awful day. He fought for composure and once, leashing his emotions back in, apologized for the outburst. His attention turned again to Cynthia and he took her hand and pulled her down on the bench beside them. She appreciated the invitation this time, as she realized how far they had walked and sank down next to him.
This time, Cynthia allowed Daryl to lead the direction of the conversation, realizing the deep hurt and pain needed a way out. The woman on the bench, seeing the constraint between these two and easily summing up the situation before her, softened and turned her attention to Cynthia, a new mother-to-be who was caught in the cross-fires of this recent tragedy, a victim of sorts. She needed a husband, and soon-to-be new father, to be there with her 100% as the time drew near for their first child’s entrance into this life. So many people, so many needs.
The woman asked if they minded, if she could get their phone number and explained that when she finished the little, red, wool sweater she would like to make it a gift for their baby. Both Daryl and Cynthia were deeply moved by her gracious gift and gave her their phone numbers then after a little more polite conversation felt it was time to move on.
After Daryl and Cynthia had moved far down the walkway and were but small, hazy outlines the woman on the bench also found the wall that she had closed off inside of herself break loose and brought the little red sweater up to her face. She didn’t try to stop the tears falling upon it. She kissed the sweater and promised her little granddaughter, that she would never meet, that she was passing it on to a new baby boy and hoped she wouldn’t mind.
She’d found the sweater, that she had started to make six month’s ago, discarded in her sewing basket in her sun room a few weeks ago. She absently picked it up and began working the needles again, knowing its recipient would never wear it. She had begun “click-clacking” away at the red wool sweater in a robotic trance. Her own daughter, her only child, had been killed in a car wreck involving some teens who had stolen a car and taken it on a joy ride. Rowdy and high on youthfulness, they had taken a corner too fast and left the road and plowed into the mother pushing her newborn in a stroller on the sidewalk where the car crashed and stopped abruptly as it finally came to rest against an ancient oak.
All three of the car’s occupants had died instantly. Five angels soared heavenward in that instant.
The little red sweater would be a gift, tying these strangers together. Little did either the young couple, due to have their first child nor the elderly lady on the bench know that there would be a lifetime bond created because two people exchanged a look.
A look they had both been waiting for to set them free and onto their long, difficult, healing journey.