Last Sunday was a day to sit in a car with the window cracked and watch life unfold beyond the windshield.

Last Sunday was a day to sit in a car with the window cracked and watch life unfold beyond the windshield.

We all have moments like these, don’t we? Facing anything or anyone just feels like a burden; so the best thing to do is just sit and watch, watch and sit. Feel the globe under your feet and eat a few treats.

I was at Bass Pro that afternoon, eating a hot dog and waiting to go to an assignment on the other side of Independence. The day was warm. I was at Waterfall Park, and there were many walkers and children and dogs at play. A very life-affirming moment.

As I was sitting there, a large red car pulled up beside me. In the driver’s seat was a small old woman with snow-white hair. I saw her knuckles first, gripping the steering wheel with intensity. She wasted no time in getting out of the car, and I heard banging and other assorted noises and I figured that she was preparing for a walk in the park – which only made me feel worse because, well, I’m about 30 years younger than she and it was a nice day and I felt like a lazy bum.

The woman rounded her car and I could see that she was bent over, struggling with something. I couldn’t see clearly because she was on the opposite side of her car. I figured she was putting on a pair of hiking boots or Nike running shoes.

Then she straightened up and I sat up.

From where I sat, I saw the possum begin its slow trek up the hill toward the swamp that borders Waterfall Park. The animal, which appeared fine, looked back at the woman and, turning around again, disappeared over the crest of the hill. The memory of its dirty white coat seemed to hover in the air.

The woman locked up what had been a metal cage and put it back in her trunk. She had industrial gloves on and, resting for a moment on her car door, she threw the gloves inside with an almost surprising force.

I looked down and I knew I only had once chance.

I lowered my car window just as she sat down and asked:

“Did you catch that animal?”

She looked at me and smiled. Then she stood back up and leaned down and put her arm on my door, real casual. I wondered what I would have done had she offered to sell me drugs?

“Oh … yes,” she said. She had soft leathery skin. “I raise feral cats and I take them to be fixed, you know. And the possums come around and, you know, eat the food I put out. They’re disgusting little things. I asked my vet if it was OK if I released them here, and he said it was. I think it’s fine.”

I figured that was the end of it, that she’d turn around and take her leave. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“My husband died four years ago,” she said, lowering her eyes and staring at the floor of my car. “My life … it’s become boring. It’s a purgatory. We were married for 59 years, so it hasn’t been easy to, you know … I ask myself why can’t I get over it?”

I’m the wrong person to ask, I thought.

“So you’ve caught a lot of possums?” I asked, eager to change the subject.

“A few,” she said.

She paused a while and began again.

“I’ll tell you something … one day I went out to the cage and there was this skunk,” she said. “I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I later thought that my husband and his friend, Bill, were up there in the sky looking down at me and deciding to play a joke on me – like, let’s put a skunk in the cage and see what she does.”

She clenched her fists and rubbed her fingertips, wetting her lips and smiling a little more. Then falling silent again, she entered a moment of what I felt was a kind of sublime nostalgia, as if the memory itself was in front of her, like an apple to be plucked from a tree branch or bowl.

“When I went out and looked at it, it was so beautiful and so white,” she said. “Just a magnificent animal. But why didn’t it spray?”

She drew in a few more breaths.

“I remember opening the cage and watching it leave, but it didn’t spray,” she said. “I still don’t know why it didn’t spray.”

“Maybe it didn’t feel threatened,” I offered.

The conversation wandered a bit again, but she returned to her life and the impossibility of it. She was not original in this manner; we all wander back to matters we can’t solve.

“I don’t have much excitement in my life,” she said.

She spoke about a recent article she’d read by the Rev. Billy Graham.

“He didn’t answer why I felt this way or why I haven’t been able to get over it,” she said. “And I thought if Billy Graham doesn’t know, why would I know?”

“People aren’t machines,” I said.

“What’s that?” she said.

“Everyone’s different,” I said, speaking up.

She was silent.

“I once caught a possum – mean little SOB,” she said, looking up at the small hill in front of our cars. “He made a terrible, awful racket. And when I let him out of the cage, he went about 6 feet, turned around, looked at me and went, yap, yap, yap, his little lips moving like crazy.

“I never thought I’d see an animal cuss me out.”

I can’t say for sure how our conversation ended, or what word or expression encouraged her to decide that she was finished talking. All I know is that at some point she stood up and pushed away from my car door and got into her car and drove away.