I have made no secret of my general disdain for the greater majority of the human race, and I make no apologies; it has been my experience, over the course of my almost 65 years, that most people are rude and selfish as well as possessing a far greater sense of self-importance than they have done anything with their sorry-assed lives to have earned or deserve. And, while I am fully well aware that this makes me judgemental, like most of you, I have fairly well earned my bitter and most cynical attitude about Humanity.
With all of that said, and with a wealth of experience on this matter, the universal exception… Those who will get a pass each and every time any sort of behavior, as I have described, coming from “little ol’ ladies”… Will not only be unquestionably accepted but will be cheered and encouraged as well.
Those of you readers out there who have been with me for a while are aware that when I need to restock food or other supplies, I must ride a bus to and from the store and use a backpack to carry these things on the return trip home. And so it was that I needed a few items to sustain me so I could comfortably hunker down and survive Christmas and New Year’s insanity in relative peace and glorious solitude.
Despite my trip being three days before Christmas, as is always the case when I have to go out, the store was a complete shitshow; as it is with grocery stores on the day food stamps are released, trying to get up and down the aisles in my visually challenged condition was nothing short of an every man for himself bumper cars extravaganza. On some aisles, people were standing around like they had all month; on others, they sprinted up and down from section to section, throwing things in the cart before sprinting to the next spot, as if the fucking store was on fire. And, because it was right before a holiday, everyone was hugging and small talking and gathering in groups that blocked my path as if they were sitting around a Goddam bonfire drinking hot toddies. FML.
Surviving the Sea of humanity relatively intact and enduring the dolts in the checkout line, I finally made it outside, where I intended to sit in relative peace and quiet and eat my chocolate eclairs in silence. As I turned the corner, I saw that someone was sitting at the bench waiting for the bus, and just as I was tsking and sighing to myself out loud, I got close enough to see that it was a little ol’ lady that had to be every bit of 90. Now, I would be lying if I didn’t point out that some of these old birds can be quite feisty and cantankerous, but more often than not, they’re so happy to be still consuming oxygen that almost never are you confronted by a little ol’ lady that wants to scream and yell at you or try to ruin your day.
And so it was, by the grace of God, that this particular little ol’ lady… Not a tooth in this beautiful and glorious woman’s head… Was in a perky mood and happily accepted my taking a seat next to her with no complaint.
She was humming to herself, a tune I wasn’t familiar with, and I was busily opening my box of eclairs, and we sat there in silence for a couple of minutes- each of us quietly riding our respective trains of thought. For what it’s worth, I have learned over the years that, like the game of tic-tac-toe, whoever goes first in a conversation rarely gets the last word. I decided to kick things off by asking her if she was ready for Christmas. Not knowing what to expect, there was no way I could have known that she would have answered by snickering a little bit and pointing out – in that tone, you get when you know you have asked a stupid question – that Christmas wasn’t a thing you got ready for rather it was something that just came and went like every other day, and you just made the most of whatever the good Lord allowed you to get out of it.
I knew at that moment that I was going to stay quiet about my disdain for the holiday, and I wasn’t going to prattle on about the extent to which commercialism had sucked all the intended meaning and purpose out of the whole idea of Christmas because I already knew that if I kept my mouth shut and my ears open, I was just about to be taught a valuable lesson by someone that knew a whole lot more about life than I had yet to learn in my comparably 65 younger whippersnapper years.
Encouraged by my silence, she told me how proud of herself she was that she had decorated her entire apartment, knowing full well no one was coming to visit beyond dropping off presents for her. But the simple beauty of her pride was not rooted in some hollow vanity rather, it was a pride in the simple beauty approving to herself she still had it in her to do it, for her own pleasure and satisfaction and not anyone else’s.
She talked about the ailments and maladies of her children… The one who can barely walk, the other who lives in a different town, and the complications of grandchildren and divorced children and all the other things that all the rest of us out here experience ourselves or know of countless friends, family, or loved ones that experience them, each and everyday holiday or not.
I started a couple of times trying to insert the appropriately placed compliments to her regarding her strength and perseverance, but, now that she was on a roll, there would be no more getting a word in edgewise. She immediately bridged into her apartment building and how she had been forced out of the one apartment due to illness but, once recovered, moved back into the same building but a smaller unit which was accordingly much easier for her to manage on her own. I squeezed in a question about whether it was a senior housing apartment, set up to make life easier for the residents, and she quickly slapped that down and move right into her joy at cutting it up with the neighbors in their weekly bingo games.
My mind drifted a little bit, thinking back to my mother – God rest her – and her own love of bingo before she drifted off into her final years of Alzheimer’s. I lived with and took care of her for the last 4 years of her life, but unfortunately, she spent the final 2 mostly inside her own head before finally losing her battle. It would be 6 weeks after she passed that I would have my third stroke and be put upon the new path God has chosen for me, but I can still remember vividly her sheer joy at laying out 8 or 10 cards and cutting up with the old folks sitting on either side of her while I quietly sipped my beer and watched.
I snapped myself back to full attention just in time to hear my bus stop partner tell me, having no clue that I was a writer with a website and a Substat page dedicated to chronicling the joys of living a Hermit life, that it was nonsense for people to isolate themselves from each other and that the good Lord above intended for us to be together, share our lives and our stories and our trials and our tribulations because that is simply what people are designed and built to do. Still able to remember the taste of soap, you bet your ass I did not argue with her, nor did I tell her that our having crossed paths would probably end up in a book currently under development, but I can say with confidence that this little ol’ lady definitely taught me, or should I say reminded me, that there is value in a balance between solitude and quiet reflection. And given that she lives alone with few visitors, I think she also taught me that, at the end of the day, she and I have a whole lot more in common than either one of us will ever fully realize or appreciate. Sort of like the old Maurice Chevalier song – Thank Heaven For Little Girls- I would add Thank Heaven For Little Ol’ Ladies.