The other morning, I had to run to the grocery store for a few items. It was early and there were very few people in the store besides staff, so I was surprised when I reached my target, the dairy department, and found an older lady absently studying the cheeses. She was riding one of the store scooters and wearing a nasal cannula attached to a small oxygen tank. I needed to get by, but didn’t want to frighten her, so I softly said, “Excuse me please.”
She turned, immediately apologetic about blocking the aisle. Then she complimented my top and asked where I’d gotten it because she, too, loves the “crayola” colors. I told her, and added that she also looks lovely in pastels as evidenced by her white eyelet blouse and orchid slacks.
When I started to pull away, she placed a slender hand on my forearm and asked, “Do you have a minute?” I looked down at the protruding veins contrasting with her hot pink nail polish, perfectly manicured. Her snow white hair fell in soft waves to her shoulders and her pale blue eyes were enhanced by a light coat of mascara and pink lipstick.
I did a quick mental calculation of my morning schedule, then reproached myself for my hesitation. I emphatically answered, “Yes, I do.”
The lady smiled and journeyed back in time to the years when her girls were young and her late husband would take them fishing, in spite of the girls’ protestations that they hated fishing. She said her husband would chuckle at the girls’ reactions to live bait. The fishers would cast their lines and chat away warm Saturday afternoons.
The girls talked about their friends in school, giggling about the “nasty” boys and sighing over the ones “to die for.” They told Dad what they wanted for Christmas, what they wanted to be when they grew up, maybe, at least for today. They confided their disappointment at losing a spelling bee and what they hoped Mom was cooking for dinner, which didn’t include fish. They laughed and revealed a million other pixels in their fertile imaginations, all indelibly captured by Dad for recapping later to Mom. Suddenly, one of the fishing-haters would interrupt excitedly, “I’ve got a bite!”
I listened, enrapt by this lady’s vivid reminiscences and teared up at the obvious joy the memories stirred. To the casual observer, I made the lady’s day – but they would be wrong. This sweet lady, my new nameless friend, allowed me a few minutes to step off the one-way train Dale and I are riding, and to glimpse the beauty still cherished by a life even as it nears the final curtain. I felt refreshed as we took our leave, and I drove the mile and a half back to Dale in our home, cognizant of a new prism through which I’d assess our lives.
Thank you, dear Lord.