I used to see her walking in the late afternoons in my neighborhood in Lake Balboa, up in the valley. I estimated her to be in her early eighties, although I later learned that both she and her husband were eighty-six. She was of smaller stature, with a neatly styled beehive of silver hair. She walked briskly past the little Kaiser Victory homes almost every afternoon. Her name was Judy, and she seemed to know the names of everyone she encountered on her journey.
She was married to a man named Stan. He sold Cadillacs, a second career he had started out of boredom after retiring from his first job. He was kind of a cranky old guy, but in a likable enough way. Gruff, but smiling. Theirs was the second marriage for each, and even after close to 30 years, they seemed devoted to each other. We didn't know all that much about them. They were good neighbors who lived quiet lives. We waved when we noticed their silver heads driving by in their big Cadillac sedan.
The little fifties neighborhoods in this area were all laid out similarly. To minimize the number of little streets exiting into the major ones, there was one egress per block which then fed the other neighborhood streets. The downside was that fifty years later, it could be quite dangerous exiting the neighborhood from the tiny streets, the vast majority of which still lack traffic lights.
It was the first Sunday in December. They decided to go out for breakfast and made the same left turn they had made ten thousand times, although this time was different. A city bus obscured Stan's view and for whatever reason he didn't wait for it. He didn't see the speeding Corvette with the two young men inside. It all happened so fast. The police estimated the Corvette was travelling 60 mph just prior to the time of impact.
I wish he hadn't been conscious after the crash, as I can't imagine what it was like for him to see his world shatter before his eyes. A more perfect universe would have spared him from that. Keenly aware that his beloved Judy was gone, witnesses said that he sat in the ruins of his once-proud Cadillac and held her hand. He himself was transported to a local hospital where he died later that morning. Both men in the Corvette were seriously injured but survived. The driver faced charges relating to his reckless speed.
I learned so much about them at the service. The family had created large display boards with many photographs. White-haired cranky Stan had been a hunk wrestler at UCLA in an earlier life. I was struck by a picture of him circa 1936, handsome, broad-shouldered, smiling, with his first wife, the gorgeous blond actress. They were seated in leather club chairs next to a rustic fireplace, and they looked like the King and Queen of California. Judy had been a dancer and model and had a beaming smile. She and Stan had travelled the world in their almost three decades together- riding Elephants in India, on Safari in Africa, riding in a gondola in Venice. I was amazed at the fascinating lives this quiet couple had led, and how eighty six years of living all ended in the fraction of an instant, during the execution of a seemingly innocuous left turn.
Outside the chapel, one of his coworkers shared a conversation he had with Stan a few months back. Stan, concerned about one having to get by without the other, had told him that when their time came, he just wished to God that they could go together. It was merciful of Him to grant the wish.