I tend to gravitate towards the elderly. I feel like somehow our society has devalued the older generations and it should be the exact opposite. When I am out, I will usually watch them to see if they need anything or just for my own contentment. I have been thinking on this subject a lot this week, especially age discrimination. Not just discrimination against the elderly but teenagers, too. But that is a post for another day.
So, last month’s overheard in focused on one conversation that my husband and I had with an elderly gentleman. I still think about him often and I keep hoping I will run into him again. This month’s overheard in has a few conversations of the same type. Not moments that I was in but ones that I have overheard. If you ever want to really appreciate the wide expanse of our time here on Earth, go to Costco during lunch hour. Once there, you will see couples in their later years of life, widowers meeting, single people eating by themselves, mothers begging their children not to run around the huge stone pillars (which seems to be a travesty because the pillars seemed destined for such activities), sweaty workers relieved for an easy and quick meal to grab on their break, and business men in suits hoping for the same. It is as though the whole fluctuation of time and humanity is in that food court.
My husband and I were sitting in the food court at Costco. This seems to be a regular thing, but really it only happens about once or twice a month. I will sit and score us a table. He will stand in the line, order the food, get our drinks, and make his hot dog. I obviously have the better end of the deal. I will cut my slice of pizza in half and give it to him. He will let me eat as much of the frozen chocolate yogurt (with diet coke. Yum!) as I can muster before it becomes all his. I have a weird thing about sharing food and drink. As in, I don’t.
On this particular day, I sat with my back to the Costco exit. I never sit this way, because as I have said before, I like to see what people have purchased. My own cart was a mismatched sugar and flower paradise, just the way I like it. And I had it packed so full that the only way I could fit into that seat was to place my back against it so it would not roll away. The older man next to me promised me he would stop it with his foot if it started going.
Let us study him and his wife for a moment. They sat to my left and they were an elderly couple in their mid-eighties. He was small and thin. She was robust and had circular glasses. Her hair was still a sea of black with waves of grey breaking free only at the highest frothy peaks. To my right sat an older couple in their mid-seventies. Their body frames and body languages were almost identical. Tall and removed. In front of that couple, with his back to me, was a man in his eighties by himself. He had a wedding ring on his left hand. All five of them had large dark age spots covering their arms. And I began to wonder, when does this occur? Why don’t I know this? This is something that I should know.
All three men were wearing slacks. The women, beautiful patterned blouses. The woman on my left said to her husband, “Do you think we should go check? Do you think it’s ready yet?” And he in turned replied, “let’s give it a few more minutes.”
The couple on my right were having almost an identical conversation. About picking up prescriptions at Costco.
And you guys, you guys, let us all be so grateful for our health.
After a few more moments, the couple on my left decided that it was indeed time to check on their prescriptions. The couple on my right were more cautious, pessimistic, if you will. The man stood up and I turned to the woman and complimented her on her blouse. She smiled and thanked me. It was at this moment that the husband came around to help her from her seat. She could barely move. And the gesture of love just made my heart swell.
Not the helping her up, but the realization that her husband probably put that shirt on her that day. She could not put it on herself. So, without realizing it, I had given them both a compliment. And I felt like I had invaded an intimacy that was not mine to intrude upon. Because in the moment that his hand grasped her body to help it rise from the bench, unwittingly their whole morning flashed in a sequence before my eyes. The picking out of the blouse. The rising of her arms as he slipped it over her head. And then the same gesture that he was creating now as he eased her from their bed. It was beautiful. And heartbreaking. And pure.
I cast my eyes down as to not break their privacy any more than I all ready had.
Let’s move on to something funny. My husband and I were walking down the street in our town. We were headed to our favorite Cuban coffee shop.
As we were walking, two men in their mid-forties stood across the street. They were speaking very loudly to one another.
One of the men was built like a cut tulip on its third day of adjusting to a vase of water still shocked at the loss of firm ground caressing its now amputated roots. He was all round from his thin legs up with a point for a head.
His Boston accent rang through the morning air, “You wanna know my biggest fear?”
He did not wait for his companion, a nondescript man who was a blade of grass to the tulip, to answer.
“You win the Pennsylvania lottery and then you’re gone.”
My husband and I both turned and looked at each other with confused grins on our faces. It was such an odd thing to overhear on our small California street, especially in the morning before coffee. And not at night before wine.
One of the things my family loves to do is go to the bookstore together. There is nothing better than the smell of thousands of books joined together. Each so different that it would be like throwing together all of the world’s lovers and enemies into one room and instead of the loud clamoring one would expect, all that is heard is peaceful accepting silence. Each book wrapped up and secure with the knowledge of themselves.
Not everybody feels this way.
Because as my son and I were walking down an aisle, a man turned to his wife and began to complain about wanting to sit down.
This is what he said, “The only place to sit was by that chair.”
I did not comprehend the irony of his statement until my son turned to me with a huge grin and a twinkle in his eye. After the couple had left the aisle, he whispered to me, “Did that man just say what I think he said?”
I was at a grocery store a few weeks ago and I could not help but overhear a woman who was passing out samples to another woman. She kept repeating herself in different ways and I had to wonder what the younger woman thought of the stranger’s assessment of her health.
The woman in her twenties stopped to get a sample. The woman passing out the sample began to give a speech about the benefits of the sample for one’s health.
The woman said, “Maybe I should try this. I haven’t been feeling well.”
The lady replied, “You know, you do look a little funky.”
“I feel it.”
“You look really sick. I think you should go to the doctor. Get a Z-pack.”
I left before more medical advice was given, but I had to wonder how I would feel if someone told me I looked funky. To me, the woman looked completely normal. Maybe I don’t know what funky looks like. Maybe I look funky.
Maybe I need a Z-pack. Or a seat next to a chair. Or to play The Pennsylvania Lottery.
Did you overhear anything good or interesting this month? Please share. I’m all ears.