I just ran in for some over-the-counter allergy medication. I said I would be quick so my husband rolled down the window in the truck and opted for the radio. Not a store I frequent often, I quickly wandered aisles and read signs before reaching the cold/allergy section.
I scanned the shelves for my choice and saw her from the corner of my eye. She was making good time with her wheeled walker complete with seat. I glanced her way and smiled as I scooted closer to the shelves so she would have plenty of room to pass. On a mission, she asked if I knew if they had any "regular old soap" besides the fancy kind that she could scarcely believe was selling for $4.99 for a three bar pack.
We chatted about soap, the general rise in prices on everything and how busy the neighboring restaurant was. I glanced momentarily at the medication on the shelf as I remembered my husband outside. I turned my attention back to her just as she asked, "Do you like any of what I am telling you?". I grinned a yes, changed my stance from one leg to the other and settled in for her story.
Born one wintery February, on a farm in Iowa, she was the last remaining from a family of 14 (fourteen!). She told me she would be turning 93 this February but, "It's not good to live too far in to the 90's, you know" she laughed. Her capri pants and brightly printed socks stuffed inside sensible shoes echoed her playful and practical sides. She talked bits and pieces of her long-lived life before wistfully offering that she would much rather live on a farm today than where she lives now. Her voice trailed while telling me her memories of growing up, of time spent on the porch with her mother, of working in the garden just beyond.
She talks of two paintings she has done depicting her memories, one of a train and one of a scene of the farm during the snow. She tells me she has tried to paint the old school house, that is still standing, but that she is not able to. She shared that she thinks it is because she always tried to earn a special cape that was awarded at the school and was never able to do that. She says that when she looks at her paintings she can hardly believe she painted them herself. They are a gift I tell her, a way to remember.
Her eyes moisten and she pats her walker. "I asked a lady in Wal Mart where she got her Cadillac" (read: walker) telling the lady she needed one herself. A gentleman nearby overhead and offered one to her, free, the one she was using this very day. A long pause ensued but I didn't move. She looks deep into my eyes, "It was meant to be you know". And I feel it, this meeting today, it was meant to be.
She pats my arm and says, "Thank you for listening and I wanted you to know that". Then, before I can respond, one last bit of advice. "Take care of your teeth" she says. "My sister had to get new ones and they are very expensive!" A final pat to my shoulder and one last, "Thank you for listening to me - and I want you to know."
I find the allergy medication on the shelf but leave it there after seeing the price tag is much greater than what I usually pay elsewhere. I leave the store hands empty but heart full. I am thankful for God-ordained moments like this and most thankful I made the time to listen. I take with me shared memories and shared moments. Moments and story that were meant to be told and, most importantly, meant to be heard.
When I return to my husband he says he wondered if he should have come inside to help me when I took so long. I point to the lady, now leaving the store, and my heart lightens when I see she is getting into a car where her husband is also waiting. "That is what took so long" I offer. He smiles noting my empty hands. He knows it was meant to be too.
Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee #TellHisStory: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/