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  • "That's such a cute dog."

    It's the way she says this that stops me from merely tossing out a quick "Thanks!" and continuing my walk. I catch myself, reverse my legs' momentum, and steer the dog around to let him interact with this new admirer.

    She is a young-looking older woman who has just dragged her garbage bins out to the curb for weekly collection. I am just shy of 40, finishing my evening pre-triathlon training run. My dog is a Jack Russell Terrier who loves attention.

    An hour later, Rosa hugs me and asks God to bless me after our long talk.

    She tells me of her husband, who passed away just a few weeks ago.

    She talks of her only brother, who also died within the past year.

    She recalls her strong mother, whom she used to be at odds with yet grew to admire (just like my history with my mom, I think); of her womanizing, untrustworthy father (like mine); of how she never believed herself to be any good (like the way I feel about myself).

    There are roughly 30 years and a huge spectrum of life experience between us, yet she talks and talks and talks and I listen - intently, truly, openly, never taking my eyes from her face - as if we are longtime friends.

    She grew up in the projects (which I did not), married young (which I also didn't do), and had three children (which I've not yet done).

    We've both run businesses, thrown ourselves into entrepreneurship without a clue as to what to expect, and despite others' expectations for our sex.

    We've both been rich and poor in many ways aside from money.

    She says her husband was the greatest. "I was so blessed," she stresses again and again, probably close to 20 times during our conversation. "And I didn't deserve him or any of this." She is referring to her beautiful home, her family, her cars, her possessions material and otherwise.

    Daughter, sister, wife, mother, landlord, business owner, Cub Scout leader, volunteer, housekeeper, dog lover, grandmother, aunt, cousin, granddaughter, widow.

    That deserves a lot, I think, and I try to tell her so.

    She looks at me as if I'm an alien with all my praise.

    "Life is funny," she says. I agree. "We couldn't make this stuff up."
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