Friday, June 21, 2013

Meeting the 92-year-old bike girl

These days, I like to bike down to the riverside of the Danube, find a nice and quiet spot next to the water and sit down with a book to read for an hour or two, as long as I feel like it. Just me and a book and nothing to disturb our quality time together.
Today, as I was sitting there, an old woman came past. She was slowly strolling along the riverside with her rollator, on her face the sincerest, happiest smile that you can imagine. I thought "WOW! She is really enjoying just walking and feeling the sunshine on her skin. This is awesome." And a part of her smile passed onto me.

When I was done reading and started packing my stuff, the old woman came back. She stopped next to me and we started chatting about the flood, about getting old, and about sports.
As we are standing there, she tells me that she is 92 years old and pretty much has been doing sports all her life, and always enjoyed it. She tells me she used to bike a lot, until her 80s - then her children, two sons, took the bike away because they deemed it too dangerous. She tells me how great that bike was, taking her place she would never have been able to go otherwise.
And before my eyes, the 92-year-old woman transforms into a lively bike girl with more than 70 years of bike experience under her skin.
And now, she tells me, her power is slowly decreasing, at 90+. She tried swimming, but the last time it didn't work that well anymore. She thinks it's because she has not enough power left in her arms.
But still, she tells me, even if swimming doesn't work, she walks down the Danube every day. Up and down between the two bridges that cross the river, watching what the flood has destroyed and enjoying the sun. She wears a shirt with short sleeves. Her shoulders and arms are bare. "It doesn't look that nice anymore", she tells me and points at her upper arms. "But I don't care anymore about that." She smiles.

We say goodbye. I remember her smile, this wonderful, radiant smile as she passed me in the sunlight.

Tonight, for summer solstice, I raise my glass to you, 92-year-old bike girl, and wish you many more strolls and smiles along the Danube river.

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