Like the chocolate

Spent petunia flowers she was removing along the burm’s edge monopolized her attention.

“Good Morning,” I called to the back of her head.

Henri and I had ventured on our longest walk to date—down the drive and up the hill to the first intersection. During daylight hours, Henri is an off leash pup. In the dark of night we tether together, much to her dismay. I’ve explained there are hungry coyotes about, but I’m not sure she understands.

Anyhow, when the gardener turned around to return my greeting, Henri ran with gusto to investigate this new two leg.

“I just thought I’d clean up this flower bed a little before the rain comes,” she said.

“Are you a friend of Helmut?” I asked. Helmut is our widowed neighbor who speaks with a delightful German accent. He’s planted red, white, and purple petunias in his flower bed every spring for at least 20 years.

“Yes…,” she replied, “I clean for him. I come from South Milwaukee.”

“Oh, nice. I’m Gail,” I said while offering my hand for a shake. “Henri—get down, no jump…”

“Ambrosia,” she replied, while extending her hand. “Like the chocolate. You won’t forget now, will you?”

“No, I won’t,” I said with a smile. As a light sprinkle picked up I commented, “Better to be out here in a little rain than yesterday’s heat.”

“Ohhh!” she said. “I am originally from the Philippines. Every time I go home I complain about the heat—so hot there!”

As raindrops splattered my glasses, over the course of a few short minutes, I learned that Ambrosia is a widow. Her husband died a couple of years ago from lung cancer. She herself survived endometrial cancer which spread to her colon, and caused her to wear a colostomy bag for twelve long years.

When she met a man, fell in love, and decided to get married, she went back to the doctors to see what they could do about getting rid of that bag. And, fix her?—they did! She dropped from 120 to 94 pounds, just skin and bones, but she put weight back on and enjoyed many happy years with her husband.

I noticed Henrietta was eating mushrooms from the grass and the sky looked dark.

“We should get going Ambrosia,” I said. “So nice to meet you! Thanks for helping me socialize Henri. Hope to see you again.”

“You remember Ambrosia!” she said with a smile. “Like the chocolate.”

When’s the last time you engaged and really listened to a stranger?

Reaching toward others is a newish undertaking I’ve been working on. I could have ignored Ambrosia, she’d have never known, but I’m richer and more connected because I stepped outside of my comfort zone.

Ambrosia’s wide smile, tinkling laughter, and gentle demeanor offered no trace of bitterness for the challenges she’s faced. What I saw was her joy to be out deadheading flowers under a low, grey sky.