I have a tendency to speak out and find this quality or curse, more prevalent as I grow older. I have developed the somewhat rude boldness that often comes with old age. I just have to learn to choose my words, the place I say them and apparently the tone in which I speak. If you doubt my opinion on this subject, just ask my husband. I truly believe he plans, after my departure from this earth, to have my tongue pickled, and will set the pickle jar on the TV. He will be able to see it often, be constantly reminded he is not being interrupted while viewing TV and I’m certain, will have the smallest of smirks lurking beneath his lips. There will be no one to disagree with him. Our Yorkie, George won’t. He seldom argues unless it involves his food or a stranger approaching the door.
Thanks to this pickled tongue, I have met some interesting people when out in public places just by smiling at them which often leads to a conversation. Connecting with other people is always enriching, whether it is enjoyable or not, something is always learned. As I cling to a small shopping cart, trying to forget the pain that is constantly with me, I know that is the force which leads me to reach outside myself to someone else. I believe people are fascinating. I find it always makes me forget my pain and embrace life outside myself when I chat with another person. Yesterday at Safeway I met a fisherman who had a cart filled, top and bottom, overflowing with bottled water. I asked him, for fun, if he was heading to Houston. I knew that was an impractical idea. He smiled, caught the humor and replied, “No, I’m a professional fisherman and it’s for our boat.” That was a connection.
I replied, “That’s good because that’s a long way to haul water.”
I then ran into a puzzled looking young woman who was weighing a most peculiar looking fruit. It had the shell of a coconut but since it was cut in half one could see the interior was not coconut but some yellow fruit with round “pods” of white colored fruit within it. I asked what it was and she said, “I don’t know, do you? Would you like to smell it?” I did. It smelled tropical, like pineapple but sweeter. She said, “I’m going to see what it costs before I decide to buy it because it’s so heavy; but I would like to try it.” Another interesting encounter with a stranger, a connection, a touch.
My body pooped out so I went to the car to wait for my husband, Jim, to check out our groceries. While sitting in the car with the door open to enjoy the cool night air, I noticed a bedraggled looking junkman parked two empty parking spots over from where we were parked in handicapped parking. He was loading an old pick-up truck that someone had spray painted with many cans of white enamel. Obviously not a professional paint job but effective none the less. His loads he was tying into place were large plastic bags from the recycling unit inside the store, I would assume. The bed of his old truck was full as he tied all the bags into place through the glassless back window of his truck’s cab. It was obvious he had performed this tying down routine many times before. Another guy walking in the parking lot yelled out to him in a friendly gesture and the junkman replied, “I’m heading up to Portland, now.” 7PM and the junkman had the enthusiasm about his work one usually reserves for mornings. He was a tanned, wiry fellow who exhibited all the signs of a hard-working guy. Since he had noticed me watching him, he gave me a broad grin and a “thumbs up” as he drove off. I smiled in connection. That was just one part of my shopping trip but on other outings, whether it be for pleasure, out to dinner or a trip to the laboratory at the hospital or an X-ray, I have met so many interesting folks, most are usually very kind. Every life has a story. Fortunately, my big mouth often loosens folks up and I get to share and hear many stories. I love that part of being alive.
When I was hospitalized a few weeks ago, I got the weeps one afternoon and a gruff nurse came in, pulled back my privacy curtain and put her arms around me, kissed me on the forehead and comforted me. I discovered her gruff exterior was hiding the pain of her husband at home dying of lung cancer. Of course, being a retired nurse, I have comforted and given it to thousands over the years but less often been on the receiving end of it…a story, a connection, a touch.
I find it’s easier to give comfort and support than to receive it. Many of our fellow humans are going through some episode in their lives in which a bond or human connection would help. I know many of the faithful readers of this blog are in need of compassion, understanding and often, just a touch of caring. Life is hard, painful and exhausting for so many of us.
Haven’t each of us in the USA had an exceptional example of brotherhood this past week as we have watched every age, sex and race come to the aid of those who were in dire need. I didn’t see any rescuers asking some poor soaking wet soul who he voted for in the last election. Flooded out of their comfort, their homes and their memories, thousands upon thousands of individuals have been displaced. As always tragedy is no respecter of wealth, age or color and homes and ranches of all types have been destroyed or badly damaged. Many animals, domesticated and of the forest from the lowly opossum to the loveliest of stallions have been affected and threated by flood and wind. I was not surprised to see that great state of Texas, the home state of my beloved Dad and the home for the last twenty years of my son and his family come through in an hour of great, significant need. People were drowning out there in those waters. Everything they had worked for in a lifetime was being ruined, floating away or otherwise endangered. Many of the elderly and infirmed had to be carried out to a boat, canoe or other mode of transportation by total strangers or neighbors they hardly knew. These actions gave me a familiar feeling, a reminder of the values I was taught as the child of a Texas father, and a child of the South.
Rescue efforts poured in from every one of our 50 states. Uniformed, shirt-sleeved, boots or sandals, shorts or jeans, America went into rescue mode. I’m certain many of those rescuers were thinking of their own families and the way they would feel and react in equal circumstances. Individuals with boats, food, cots, water as well as large stores and small ones were opening up their buildings and hearts to ones in need. Trucks of all sizes, those pulling boats and others loaded with help poured in. Highways that had previously been going out of Houston with those leaving before the hurricane hit, all going in one direction, were over the course of a day now going toward the devastated area in the opposite direction. Loads and lines of help were pouring in. I felt deep regret that Jim and I, as old experienced nurses no longer have the health to travel down there to help.
I have found pain and suffering one of the great equalizers on this road of life. Do you ever wish you could know the story of each individual you see at the market or in a restaurant? I’m sure they would be happy and sad, have loss as well as victory and also be filled with regret, triumph and query. The eternal question which rises on the lips of each of us when faced with sorrow, loss or illness is always “WHY?”
Sometimes there is not time for “why” in our lives. It often comes later when we realize many of our losses are permanent. Those folks in Texas and Louisiana have had their lives changed forever. Millions of our fellow Americans will be going through the stages of grief in their own way and timetable as they react and respond to all that has fallen upon them. Many of us who have chronic illnesses know what that feels like. We are constantly rebuilding our lives, as they will be. We lose function, friendships and comfort. If anyone understands the loss and suffering in the South right now, it should be us.
Please take a moment to pray for Texas and Louisiana and do whatever you can to help.