Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Old is Old?

The woman ahead of me must have been in her eighties.  As she slowly counted quarters, nickels, and dimes from a handful, I glanced at the cashier's screen, happy to slow down and stop rushing for a minute.  She was buying blade steak, green beans and fruit Danish.  Was she having a special dinner that warranted going to the grocery store for just these things?  Maybe she goes every day.   Her total was $10.93.  She finally made it up to 95 and gave her money to the sixteen-year-old at the till.  That young girl shot me an apologetic smile, recounted the coins, and returned the surplus in seconds.  The woman looked down at her ample pile of change and said playfully, "I still got a handful."  We all laughed, and she went on her way.  I wondered about that laughter.  Was it of the "You're the cutest thing," variety, or more the, "Your years give you a beauty that makes me happier."  Maybe we felt some kind of relief.  What's it like to find yourself old enough for people to think you darling?  To ask loudly, "How are we today?"  To apologise for you. 

Later, I stepped into the parking lot.  She was still making her way to her car.  Suddenly I was nine and waiting for my Nanny in another grocery store parking lot.  Grampy and I are sitting in his pickup.  It's an impossible blue in my memory.  The sky is a splotchy purple gray.  The lightening starts.  Instead of hiding, as I have always been taught to do, preferably in a place with neither power outlets nor windows, we watch.  And I feel special and safe with this old, old man.  I now realise he was only about sixty then. 
My children tell me I'm ancient.  I'm thirty-three.

I suppose we're all old to someone, but just ourselves to ourselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment