…What I mean is, “Please accept my acknowledgement of your existence and let me be on my way,” which is what everyone means when they say, “hi, how are you” to an acquaintance.
She answers. “Fine.” Or “hot.” I’m not sure which, not that it matters. We’re all hot. Even with the cooler temperatures – highs in the high 80s to low 90s, rather than the high 90s to 100+ – we’re all still fighting off the stifling humidity.
I transfer everything from the shopping cart to the minivan, stopping briefly to realize I have a horrible headache. As I turn around to return the shopping cart, an elderly gentleman appears, wearing a name tag and gathering carts. I give him my cart, thank him, and am saddened at the thought of so many senior citizens working for a huge retail giant, greeting customers at the door, scanning an endless array of bar codes and collecting shopping carts.
I fasten my seat belt and look up in time to see an elderly woman pushing her cart to her car. Knowing I am already running behind and will be late to work, I hesitate a moment before I unfasten my seat belt and get out of the car. I go to her and offer to help her unload her shopping cart, but she declines, and I know why. She’s fiercely independent, taking pride in her self-sufficiency. As I turn to leave, I secretly hope that when I’m her age – her great-grandchildren go to school with my children – I’ll be as spunky and spirited as she.
Driving down the main street, I fight back tears when I see his work truck at the Mexican restaurant. He had invited me to lunch, but I had errands to run, things to do, mundane matters to mind. If I don’t take care of things, who will? No one, that’s who. And suddenly I am completely overwhelmed again, lost in the lists of things to do, drowning in the details.
A quick stop at the grocery store finds me jockeying with a senior citizen for a view of the grocery shelf. My “excuse me” sounds surprisingly flat, and I worry I’ve hurt her feelings, this woman I don’t even know, this woman who is someone’s wife, mother, grandmother. And I fight back tears, realizing how ridiculous I would look, crying in the grocery store, birthday cake decorations in one hand and a tub of Country Crock in the other.
Driving home, my thoughts are flooded with to-do lists and schedules. I turn off the music; the noise in my head is more than I can bear. I acknowledge the headache again, briefly rubbing my neck with my left hand, trying in vain to relieve the pressure. The pain in my gut returns, and I find myself hoping premenstrual cramps are to blame. PMS is so much more welcome than that old, familiar darkness.