So, I'm grocery shopping this morning after the dogs' walk. The store is semi-busy: a few screaming kidlets, vendors stocking shelves, several elder folk...the usual suspects.
Meandering down an aisle, I stopped once to help a tiny, ancient little old lady who was trying to reach something on the top shelf--about two feet above her head. A couple aisles over, I stopped again to help her lift a case of water from the bottom shelf into her cart. She was very sweet and thanked me profusely both times, though I assured her it truly wasn't necessary, I was glad to help.
For another few aisles, I pondered the ignominy of getting old, having to face that your options are dwindling, that one day you realize you can't lift certain things, or open them, or just plain do stuff like you used to. I wondered how she was going to get her groceries in the house, especially that case of water, and hoped there was someone to help when she got home. I had a fleeting moment where I felt the inexorable weight of time bearing down on me. One day, I will be that little old lady...except taller.
Shaking off my impending doom, I kept shopping, listened to some good tunes over the sound system as I browsed the book racks, then made my way to the yogurt section where once again I met up with the same little woman. Her cart was blocking my path to the Greek yogurt, but I wasn't in any hurry, so just stood a ways behind her while she made her selections.
When she turned to leave, she suddenly realized I was there waiting. "Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, "you'll have to forgive an old woman." She had a look on her face that was...sad, embarrassed, and, I don't know, heartbreakingly resigned to the burden of her years.
"You're only as old as you feel." I said, reaching for my yogurt.
She gave me a little smile. "Why, yes, you're right, dear."
As I put the yogurt in my cart, I said, "Course, it's a bit hard to believe that when trying to get out of bed in the mornings."
She blinked, then started to laugh. Her eyes were bright, and her soft, twittering laugh reminded me of little birds and church socials and long-ago days. We grinned at each other, then she laid her gnarly, knobby fingers on my arm. "Thank you," she said, "it's been some time since I've had a good laugh."
"My pleasure." She gave my arm a little pat, then moved on to finish her shopping as I headed in the opposite direction.
I hope she kept smiling, I know I did...