Who used to meet their friends for coffee at Woolworth’s.
Who would wrap their restaurant leftovers in napkins and put them in their purse.
Who used their caring insightfulness to help guide us through our troubles.
Who we named our babies after.
Remember them? I do.
I’ve been struck, lately, by this need for little old ladies in my life. Because, well, I used to have them and now I don’t.
It started when I was selling merchandise at a local festival. This old, wrinkled woman handed me a fresh, crisp twenty dollar bill with her tight, crooked fingers.
“Two buttons please. Keep the change.”
What she donated was not much, really. ‘Only’ ten dollars. But I cannot put a price on the nourishment she fed my soul.
Yesterday I took my son to get his hair cut at this little local place in my little local town.
You know the place. Where they take walk-ins. Where they know most of the walk-in customers, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t. They still ‘know’ you and find a way to strike up conversation with you as if they have known you your whole life. The owner is the Northern version of Dolly Parton’s character in Steel Magnolias. Sweet, loving, careful, and you betcha she knows all the going’s on in this town, and is not afraid to tell you all about it. Or keep your deepest, darkest secret.
When we aren’t chatting about the new Mexican restaurant that has been trying to open for the last nine months, I overhear the owner telling another customer about the loss of her grandmother this past Winter.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, thanks honey, it’s okay, I really expected it. I’m just glad that she got to know my kids. It’s so rare that kids get to know their great-grandparents.”
My heart stops. Cracks. And shatters all over her linoleum.
Those are almost the same words that came out of my mouth four and a half years ago, after two days of Thanksgiving dinners with my family and my husband’s, where we basked in the glory of our 18-month old son getting to know not one but three great-grandmothers.’
And then they died.
My grandmother, just days after Thanksgiving, and with no warning, died after suffering a catastrophic stroke.
My husbands grandmother had a stroke on the day we buried my grandmother, finally giving in to rest two weeks later, on December 23rd.
We jinxed it.
And now I’m longing for a little old lady.
So after this heart-stopping moment at the hair dresser, I go to the local grocery store to pick up some bread for some quick, yet soul-satisfying grilled cheese sandwiches. You know, the Heidelberg bread? That bread my grandmother LOVED and could eat by the loaf? I bought that.
And then I went outside. I noticed a well-dressed dude sitting in his brand new, running car, doing something on his phone. Not unusual. And then I turned after putting my baby in the car, to see a little old lady.
And a young grocery boy asking her which car was her’s and where to put the bags. She pointed him in the right direction, and he, with a shocked and confused look on his face, pointed to the car with the dude on the phone in it, and said, “This car?”
I shared his confusion.
Because not only did the dude in the car not notice his grandmother coming out of the store, he also didn’t notice the grocery boy opening the back driver side door and putting in the groceries. Or he didn’t care.
Most importantly, he didn’t notice his little old lady struggling to get the car door open so she could get in.
What the fuck.
My heart broke, and I started crying. I said, in the shelter of my car, “What are you doing, dude? Help your grandmother! There are so many of us that would give ANYTHING to be able to help our grandmothers’ grocery shop, and you are on your PHONE!”
There was an audible gasp from the back seat as my son realized what was going on. A quiet, “oh mom” from my two year old when she realizes I’m crying.
And then silence. The only silence I’ve had all day.
I pull out of my parking space, crying, as I head home.
Wishing I had a Little Old Lady.