I came home today by way of the neighborhood market where I’d stopped to get the makings of chicken soup. Two days ago a co-worker came into the office with a full-blown cold. Now I don’t know if you can catch a cold in two days, but honestly, I never get sick when I’m away from that office and I have a hard and fast rule about coming into the office when sick. Unfortunately, I’m the only one who seems to adhere to it.
I couldn’t remember all the ingredients and in my feverish state, I asked the nearest woman I could find what she put into her chicken soup. Bad idea. She pointed to her husband who proceeded to tell me he’d been a cook in the Navy. He looked older and was a big burly guy – he looked and like he could sling hash onto your plate and beat the crap out of you if you didn’t like it. Not wanting to get the crap beat out of me, I listened for about 15 minutes while he told me what he put in it, why I shouldn’t eat wheat, should take a lot of different vitamins, eat lots of vegetables, never eat corn and a bunch more stuff than I can’t remember.Silly me, I told him I ate lots of veggies and took a handful of vitamins and meds everyday, thanks to being diabetic. Oh Lord. That started a second round of advice. He took me to the health food section, tossed gluten-free bread into my basket, then two loaves “because it was on sale.” Next into my cart was something with GFW in its title (two, you know, because they were on sale) and at least three other important things for diabetics to take. He was diabetic, too, and had “researched everything. My doctor tells me I should teach the diabetes education class.” I’ll bet he does, just so he doesn’t have to listen to it.By the time I’d managed to separate from he and his wife, I had a cart full of stuff I didn’t want. I went around a couple of aisles and came back to put it all back on the shelf when he hollered to me from the far end of the aisle. Ooops. I kept the stuff in my basket, intending to return it later – maybe he’d finally leave the store. He caught me in the fresh chicken section and started in on the nasty stuff chickens have in them. I eventually disengage and he went on his way, only to see me twice more (fortunately from a distance), waving wildly. “Stay healthy!” he yelled each time.
I finally left my cart, went to the restroom, and then to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. As I was leaving there, I saw him again, this time in the checkout line, waving and saying, “Stay healthy.” I I felt reasonably sure I could head for the milk and avoid him.
I got a full education on many things and would be glad to share it all if you feel inclined to hear it. Just let me know.
I had about $50 in my wallet and with time to kill while repairs were made to my car’s interior, I split my time between a local coffee joint and, when I got hungry, the only food available within a 15-block radius. Burger King.
Located in the industrial part Portland, it was a fairly dicey looking place. Still, I was only three hours into my six-hour wait and didn’t see many options since I was toting my laptop and some books.
[Disclaimer: I tend to be pretty soft-hearted when it comes to sharing cash, particularly with someone I perceive to be in need. My husband likes to tell people that I once slipped a $20 into the bedding of a man who was sleeping in the alcove of my bank's ATM machine when I went for cash early one winter Sunday morning in Los Angeles. He also notes that my gauge for giving money is whether or not the person has "meth" teeth. Even though they likely need it, I hesitate to support someone's drug habits.]
Back to Burger King. I ate a quick nondescript lunch and pulled out my laptop to write for a while, looking up only occasionally. What I saw sobered me, though, and my $7 lunch quickly became a $47 story for my husband to add to his repertoire.
A young woman from the Ukraine, I think, as there are many Ukranian immigrants in the Portland area, came into the restaurant with her three children. She bought herself lunch and sent her eldest, a boy about ten years old, to fetch refills for her large soft drink throughout the meal, which she doled out to the children along with her lunch. I heard her son asking for french fries and she sent him to see how much they were. $1.00 was too much for her to spend and the boys went without their desired fries.
I couldn’t stand it, even though it was a less than healthy request, and went to her table to offer her $20, asking her to please take it. She hesitated, thentold me no, she had enough money. After I told her I had enough to share, she finally accepted it and sent her oldest son off to buy lunch for all three children. She ate the remains of her own lunch and then her daughter’s because the young girl wouldn’t eat anything except a couple of fries.
I returned to my laptop, watching the comings and goings of people more than actual work. There were several, many, people who seemed to be in need, but it was an older woman, about my age, with bright red lipstick, very dirty hands and legs and tangled hair, who caught my interest most. She had only a cup of water in front of her. She accepted a $20 readily when I offered it and asked me if it was for her birthday. I responded that it was, and for mine, too, which had been only a few days earlier. It made her smile, as it did me.
Out of money, I moved back to the coffee place and read happily over another latte until they came to tell me my car was ready.
It’s such a small thing for me to give money to someone else when you have it and can see that they need it. It feels good and right now I can use all the ”feeling good” I can get; they are doing me as much a favor as I them. It’s disheartening to see so many people homeless and in need in a country where some people are more concerned about their enormous bonus checks than the well-being of others. When did we become so blind to those other people?
I often think how good it would feel to walk around handing out $100 bills to people. Just like I think about funding new facilities and a trust for our local no-kill shelter, and how I want to have a big barn and take in all the stray cats I can find, neutering/spaying/vaccinating and giving them a forever home, or funding a school for the children of the homeless, or giving out scholarships for everyone who wants to go to college, or ….. the list is endless.
I’m going to need more than $47 and some extra fries.
Added 9/3: It’s in our interest to take care of others. Self-centredness is opposed to basic human nature. In our own interest as human beings we need to pay attention to our inner values. Sometimes people think compassion is only of help to others, while we get no benefit. This is a mistake. When you concern yourself with others, you naturally develop a sense of self-confidence. To help others takes courage and inner strength.
~ Dalai Lama
I had the thought a couple of days ago that what makes me feel my age more than I think others do is that I didn’t have children. I never shared those milestones of a child’s life that make you think, “wow, they are getting older … and so am I.”
I don’t think I was aware of my aging self until about four or five years ago when it seems that suddenly everything just seemed to break down. A knee injury, a foot injury, crinkles at the corners of my eyes, and yes, this is gross, chin hairs. I have developed the benign essential tremors my mother has and her thin skin that bruises easily and leaves red, ugly blotches on my arms. I got help for the knee and the foot but I’m completely undone by the hairs, bruises and tremors.
If I had kids would these be just a normal progression of aging, something I would take in stride? Would I have been more accepting of aging or at least been aware of it as it happened? Or, would I maybe think that having children was responsible for aging?
All my life, people have been surprised when they hear how old I am, thinking I am much younger. My standard response is that I didn’t have children! But now I wonder.
I had a boss about forty years ago who told me that I should have children so I’d know what was really important (probably during one of my whines about some inconsequential work thing and how it was affecting me). It took me all of those forty years since to figure out what he meant. I’ve had the luxury of being totally self-absorbed since I was nineteen, viewing the world as if it revolved around me. At sixty-five, I’m suddenly aware that my life is so small that what is likely normal aging for others is a complete and devastating surprise to me. It’s not a happy thing.
I think it might be time to find a way to make my world bigger – take my focus off ME and MY aging and place it somewhere out there in the big, wide world.
Write 50 words. That’s a paragraph.
Write 400 words. That’s a page.
Write 300 pages. That’s a manuscript.
Write every day. That’s a habit.
Edit and rewrite. That’s how you get better.
Spread your writing for people to comment. That’s called feedback.
Don’t worry about rejection or publication. That’s a writer.
When not writing, read. Read from writers better than you. Read and perceive.
~ Ajay Ohri
Eat your broccoli.
Don’t bother to stop and smell the supermarket roses.
Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor what you think.
Give your cat anything he wants because he’ll just pester you until he gets it anyway.
Start Kegels and sit-ups when you’re ten and keep doing them until you die.
Marry someone who makes you laugh.
Read, then read more.
When times get tough, dance furiously.
Don’t listen to what people say about you.
Merry-go-rounds are for grownups. Swings, too.
Wear sunscreen even when you’re not at the beach.
Liver tastes gross for a reason.
Sleep as much as you want. Play even more.
Build a fort.
Good people sometimes die young for no good reason.
Some things are more important than having a boyfriend.
Not everyone likes bossy people.
Even mosquitos and spiders are here for a reason.
Make your life plans flexible.
Let me disclose this first thing: I don’t like cucumbers; they don’t like me.
Two nights ago my doorbell rang – at a reasonable hour, but we hardly ever have anyone ring our doorbell or even come onto our porch. The doorbell rang a second time and after exchanging surprised looks with my husband, I answered it. I expected door-to-door Bible thumpers who wanted to convert me, or at least a couple of guys farmed out by their company (always a cable/internet provider) to drum up business on the block. These are the only people who come to our door. But, people like this ring the doorbell and stay politely behind the closed screen door.
Imagine my shock when I opened the door and a very nice woman, holding the screen door open, shoved a huge cucumber in my face and asked, “Do you want a cucumber?” I hesitated only slightly, said “sure” and took the cucumber. She smiled and quickly left the porch.I closed the door and held the cucumber up for my husband to see. “You don’t even like cucumbers,” was all he said before returning to his book, leaving the cuke and me alone. I held the big ugly thing for several minutes, wondering what had just happened. I tend to be the kind of person who questions most everything, and so it was that I found myself staring at it, trying to wrap my head around this mystery gift.
I’ve spent odd moments since wondering if there was a message for me in that cucumber (which, by the way, left the house the next morning for a new home on the “take it” table in my husband’s office kitchen). Was it telling me I should be more accepting of gifts from others? Or, that cucumbers can be gifts, too? That the cucumber-bearer just had the wrong house? Or, maybe, never to answer my doorbell? To lighten up a bit and stop looking for ulterior motives and meaning in everything, especially cucumbers? Or, was it a sign that aliens now lurk outside my windows, under the Buddleia and lilac?
And, after all this stewing, here I sit. I still don’t know. Maybe it was just a sign that I should let my husband answer the door from now on.