I just went for salad and got a life lesson….

On my way to work I stopped at the grocery store, heading directly to the salad bar, my habituated lunch choice. Once there, I noticed a woman standing a few feet from the earth-friendly paper boxes I needed. It looked as though she was simply waiting for her friend, who was a few feet from her at the bread counter.

I said, “Excuse me,” to her, paused momentarily, and then stepped between her and the much needed salad box. As I pulled the top box from the stack, she said, “Well, pardon me.” Accent on the WELL.

I felt the agitation in her voice. She was telling me I had rudely moved into her space. I held my breath and felt my own irritation with her as I recognized this as a choice point. How do I choose to respond? Do I apologize for my perceived affront or do I assert my intention? I took a moment.

I often base my decision, in these awkward moments, on my mood at the time. I am not proud of this method of determining my next move. I know I should base it on the highest good for all man and woman-kind. I should engage with her and explain myself. I should be nice. I should be relational. I should. I should.

Instead of what I should have done, I went with my tired, pissy and in-a-hurry mood. I responded with equal exasperation. I spoke over my shoulder to her, “I said excuse me.” Accent on the SAID.

She responded,”Well, I didn’t hear you.” Accent on the WELL, I DIDN’T HEAR YOU.

By this time I was half way down the first side of the salad bar. I had my spring mix, grapeimages tomatoes, peas and was scooping-up some chick peas, answering her in my head, “Well, is it my job to make sure you hear me? How am I supposed to know you didn’t? Why didn’t you just move when you saw me headed for the salad boxes?”

I was working myself into a fit. How dare she!!!

Another choice point. Do I say any of this to her? Do I share my grumpy disposition further? Or do I save it for later when I need to I argue with Verizon about this months’ bill? I wasn’t sure I wanted to unload on a random woman at the salad bar.

As I was contemplating my next move and heaping coals on my defense, her friend came quietly up beside me. “Please let me apologize for my friends behavior,” she said, “she has dementia and this is not a good day for her.”

I was mortified with myself.

I looked this woman in the eye and told her it was really okay, I understood and thanked her for telling me.

I was ashamed. I was also extremely grateful I kept my indignation to myself; fully aware that my silence was not due to my niceness but to my indecisiveness.

I finished making my salad. Quietly. Humbly. I began to judge myself, telling myself what an awful person I am for being mean to a woman with dementia. Why couldn’t I just be nice? What was the big deal? So she said something snarky, couldn’t I have just risen above it, been my higher self?

As I moved toward the 10-items-or-less check out line, I stopped at the baked goods to bag a chocolate chip, pecan cookie, not that I deserved dessert after my bad behavior, and found myself standing next to the same two women. I overheard their loving interaction with each other. I was touched. I noticed how the woman that that approached me took care of her friend. They, too, were after something sweet.

In that moment of feeding our mutual sweet tooth’s, I felt our mutual humanness and fragility. I recognized how our humanity is sometimes the good news and other times the bad news.

I realized I can, or will, be my highest self…unless I am not. But, it is my job to take responsibility for both. Most of us are really trying doing our best. Everyday. Sometimes our best is lovely. Sometimes our best is not so great.

If I keep that in mind, I will be gentler with your humanness…as well as my own.

Humbly Yours,

waxseal2

 

 

 

Going Through Mom’s Jewelry

I am re-posting this piece because I have heard from some of you it was not sent to  you last week. So sorry, the bugs are still being worked out…

Mom was moved to an assisted living facility last year because her dementia was worsening and her ability to be pleasant to live in help was non existent. I am in the process of selling our family home. In doing so my brother and I are dividing the family treasures. I am going through her jewelry.

I remember, sitting on moms bed as a young girl, watching her get ready to go out with my dad, putting on dresses that are now back in style, admiring her sartorial chicness. I would dream of being old enough to dress up…and stay out late.

As she accessorized she would tell me, “Someday this will be yours,” pointing to her mother’s diamond ring, or holding up the string of pearls she brought back from Japan while my she and my dad were stationed there. I couldn’t wait.

Now they are mine. It is a bittersweet acquisition.

As I don the pink and white, three tiered, strand of beads, that are so retro today, I feel IMG_0886as young as my mom was when she worn them in the early 60’s. When I slip on the large gold signet ring my uncle left to her, I feel the weighty presence of the family legacy. As I admire the diamond sets from my grandmother, too small for any of my fingers, I wonder if I should have them reset into something contemporary, hesitant to disturb their antiquity but sad to leave them sitting in a drawer.

My uncle, a Col. in the Army, traveled all over the world. He returned home for visits gifting me with a doll from the foreign lands he visited. I looked forward to his visits and the dolls. When I reached adolescence, he switched it up. He started a gold charm bracelet for me, so instead of dolls he brought me charms from his travels. As a discerning 12 year old I wondered what in the world was he thinking? The bracelet was designed with heavy links of solid 14 carat gold, not suited to my young wrist or adolescent sense of style.  Besides, I had no place to wear it.

Mom decided it suited her wrist and her taste, so she began to wear it on her dressed up evenings out. Even though I wasn’t consulted, I was willing to share, my silent generosity making me feel older. After wearing the bracelet several times she complained that one particular charm, a large sword fish, a token of my uncle’s catch on a deep sea fishing trip…glad he opted for a charm instead of stuffing and mounting the poor thing, was poking her with it’s nose…sword.

Her solution? She took it to the jewelers and had the nose cut off. (Her maxim, if it pokes you, cut it off…imagine how my dad felt.) I couldn’t, and still can’t, believe she did that. In todays market that nose is worth a small fortune.

Each time I wear the bracelet, resplendent with it’s swordless fish charm, appreciative of my uncles foresight in choosing a bracelet with my 55 year old wrist in mind, instead of my 12 year old wrist, I remember the argument my mom and I had when I discovered the maimed fish. I was appalled. I felt sorry for the butchered fish and became it’s advocate, ever so slightly too late, telling my mom she had no right. Mom didn’t see it that way.

All of this comes back to me as I unpack her jewelry boxes. I feel heart wrenched and soothed, both feelings jumbled together, like a mishmash of tangled necklaces, difficult to separate but doable with enough time and patience.

For my birthday this year, my husband gave me a rich, blue leather jewelry box. It is IMG_0885spectacular with it’s drawers, ring holders and travel jewelry box tucked within. I feel like a grown up each time I open it. He said I needed a special place to store my families treasures.

My mom’s story has a new home.