I ran into the store, hoping to be in and out. I knew my husband would be working an odd job that night, so I needed to prepare dinner. I raced through the produce, and around the bend to the meat. I picked out pork chops and potatoes and had planned on preparing a nice home-cooked, country-style meal. One that would take a while to make.
As I cut the corner headed towards the frozen foods, I nearly ran into an older lady. She was small, and not at all quick in her movement. She was glaring down at a newspaper stand. I could hear her mumbling… “I can’t find the price of this newspaper.” I quickly stepped over and found the price of $2.00 and told her no wonder she couldn’t find it. It was covered up by a coupon. I then went on to say that I had not seen the price of a newspaper in many years and did not know they had reached $2.00 and that it seemed to be expensive compared to the last time I had bought one. She said… “Oh, but you can find a lot of great things in the newspaper!” I told her that yes, the newspaper was full of so much news but that it was slowly becoming a thing of the past due to the internet and media. She agreed and went on to say that she was sickened by the “filth” she witnessed on t.v.and that she would stick with her newspaper. Again, I agreed.
What started out as a helpful “price check” soon turned into an hour-long conversation. ONE hour. I eventually had to talk myself out of rushing off or checking the time on my smart phone. I soon realized that I needed to listen to this elderly lady and she needed to talk. She told me with a question in her eyes, she was almost 90. She doubted herself but soon realized it was true. Her skin was beautiful and I told her. When I did, she made a noise that I did not think was capable of woman her age.. a squeal like a 10-year-old girl, and then went on to say.. “Oh no, surely you are kidding!”
We talked about our heritage, our families, our parents, our divorces, our hobbies, and even politics and even how she regretted voting for Bill Clinton. I scoffed and told her to be careful in the next election and watch out for Hillary! She said, “Oh don’t you worry kid… something is “off” with her she wasn’t even honest about that thing in Ben….Ben.. ” Benghazi?” I said.
She spoke fondly of her sister, whom I learned died at what to her, seemed like an early age. Her sister had made her way through college , against the odds. She had “no good shoes, not the party kind of shoes! I mean.. no shoes for everyday wear.” Where were my kids! Why were they not with me to hear this! All I could think of was how much they have and how they have no idea how blessed they truly are.
I finally said to this wonderful lady that I had better get home to feed my family. She turned to her cart and put her arthritic -ridden fingers on it and said… “Where is my basket?” I showed her that she had her hands on it and frankly, I worried she had driven herself there. She had already “lost” her thoughts no less than about 6 times in our conversation. I started to leave and decided that I should ask her what her name was. “I don’t usually tell people my name, but it is Billie.” She didn’t care for it and I learned she tried to change it while she was in high school but it didn’t take. Her name was Billie.
Billie asked me my name and said I had a “good” name. I told her my middle name and that I was named after Annette Funicello. She again, said I had a good name, and immediately asked me what my middle name was. God love this little, old lady. She was just needing someone to talk to. I had to convince myself at first to settle in and talk with her but I soon realized, what an opportunity it was, and a privilege it had been. I walked away knowing I had made a new friend.
Billie left a trail of old perfume in the store, I walked out not too far behind her on my way to the parking lot. She stood getting into her car with the help of a young boy that bagged her groceries. I waved to her from across the parking lot and she waved back fondly.
Due to the time crunch, my family was served tacos, not pork and potatoes. But that was OK. They were none the wiser, but I was.