just ponderin'

… on meeting ms. matty

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Little Hats at Sunrise

Sometimes, when I take my time and pay attention, the best things happen.

This afternoon, Gabe, the self-proclaimed perfect boy was volunteering with a little kids’ class at the gym he goes to.  I dropped him off, and needed to make sure I got back in time to see him come out of the gym, because the sight of a three foot-tall child, gazing up at my 6’5 son as if he were a superhero, makes my heart sing.

So while Gabe was volunteering, I hurried over to the supermarket. I had an hour to toodle around before heading back to get him. I’d make sure I paid attention to the time.

I roamed past the fruits and vegetables, grabbing some clementines and bananas.  I tossed some lettuce in my cart, along with some tomatoes and I think I might have had a half-hearted thought about a salad.

By aisle two, I realized I’d forgotten anything else salad-y though.

But by then I was in the pasta aisle, which was way more exciting to my belly than the salad aisle anyway. So I stuck with it.

Then I rounded the corner and ended up in the chocolate aisle, which is the Nearly Perfect Husband’s favorite part of the supermarket. Except for the ice cream aisle, and yes he weighs exactly what he weighed in high school and when I say that I feel, once again, violently stabby.

Somebody get me a fork.

As I approached his treasures – Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars – a woman across the aisle (which meant about a foot from my cart) said something about more snow.

I looked over at her.  She had the best blue eyes, and a warm-you-from-the-inside-out smile.

I asked if more snow was coming, and she laughed when I said that I wasn’t even paying attention to the weather forecasters anymore, just looking outside to figure out what I should wear.

She mentioned she had a little cocker spaniel and he was being perfectly poopy when she let him out, because he rushed out her door and headed for the highest snow pile and just stayed there.

It was then I noticed that, when she wanted to make a point (she talked a lot with her hands, making us practically tribe-mates)… anyway, when she wanted to make a point with her right hand, she held up that arm with her left.

She also leaned on her cart quite a bit.

And she explained a few seconds later that she had MS, and so she had to be careful because between her vision issues and her movement issues, she could not just go down and get the stubborn little dog off the snow pile he continued to choose.

But, she smiled, not to worry because she has a fence all around her yard so he really can’t go anywhere.

I mentioned the ShepHerds and Fred, and she lit up.

She said her late husband and she used to have two labs. I could see her enjoying a mind-movie of their beloved dogs.

Her eyes twinkled.

She said labs were great dogs, but big dogs. And she loved her little cocker spaniel but he was never going to be a lab. She said they were…. just so…. just so…

And I said, “dumb”.

And she laughed out loud and said that yes, they were quite dumb weren’t they.

And I said they were also all about love and she agreed.

It was clear that she was in no hurry, and was enjoying our talk.

I really didn’t have to hurry all that much either. I already had salad stuff (well, some anyway) and some pasta stuff and was standing right next my true love’s chocolate. I could toss it in the cart and head to the check out right from there if I wanted to.

So I stayed.

When she mentioned her rheumatoid arthritis, asking me if I could get some cookies off the high shelf on her side of the aisle, I said “Wow, between that and your MS… are you going for some sort of record?”

She laughed.

And told me about her diabetes.

I nodded.

Man, that’s a lot to deal with.

She smiled and pointed to her cart and said she found good sugar-free cookies though.

Then she said she wasn’t supposed to eat too many because – and she got all conspiratorial at this point – she also had cardio myopathy and she had to watch what she ate.  But – and she was putting the cookies that I had just handed her in her cart (animal crackers) – she figured her old cocker spaniel could have one animal cracker a day and she could have one sugar-free cookie a day.

I said that sounded fair to me.

So here I was, talking with this woman in the grocery store, who was laughing and twinkling her eyes and totally cheating on her cardiologist or diabeti-ologist or rheumatoid-ologist or MS-ologist (or maybe all four!)

And we were talking about lots of things, including that she had gotten her masters after her MS diagnosis, because she’d always wanted to teach. But then her husband got cancer, and he wanted to stay home, close to the dogs. So she took care of him until he died.

But, she told me, she did do a lot of substitute teaching after her husband died, and loved it. She made those kids do their work though, but then she would play word games with them at the end of class.

And now she was sixty-eight years old and retired.

Her own kids were telling her what she should and shouldn’t do all the time, and she was thinking that she owed her own mother an apology, because she did that to her when she was alive too. She said, “All that ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t”.

And so I told her I was a writer, and had written quite a lot about people being ‘should on’ by other people.

She laughed and clapped and said she was all about that.

“No more being should on!” she said “People should all over me all the time!” and we were laughing pretty hard right there in the cookie and candy aisle of Hannafords.

Me, with a few vegetables short of a salad.

Ms. Matty had a life full to the brim with challenges.

And an attitude that will stay with me for a really long time.

She didn’t once come across as complain-y, or martyr-y, or looking for sympathy.

She came across as… joyful.

When we said our good-byes, she thanked me for telling her about my views on the word ‘should’.

I thanked her for stopping me to talk about snow.

And teaching me about so much more.

Thanks for readin’.

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Elena Peters

midlife blogger & pinterest master

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