The Wednesday before Christmas I was on the road to Costco needing a ham, champagne and patience. I skipped the driveway to the store and drove on toward a cafe, toward a treat for myself. I deserved it and they had a drive-up so OBaby would be none the wiser. Then, brake lights.
A few blocks from the store but not yet to my destination, there she was.
Pushing a wire personal cart through the snowslop on the side of the road. As far on the side of the road as the terrain would allow. The sidewalk must not have been clear because no one would choose to walk along 4 lanes of traffic if they had the option.
She was older. And far from steady on her feet walking along packed snow.
Cars moved left to keep moving toward their Christmas errands, food, gifts, patience. I moved left. And then I heard it. I dreaded hearing it, I kind of knew I would hear it but I hushed the thought and filled my mind with to-dos.
Pull over and help her.
Crap. There it was, and I had heard it. No pretending I hadn’t.
But the traffic confusion. But OBaby in the back. But she’s probably just going right there. But she probably has far to go and my destinations are right here. But it would be awkward. But she’d probably say no anyway. (And finally…)
But we’re too far past her now.
4 more blocks, wait in line, medium Chai tea, pay, thanks and merry Christmas!
Allison, maybe she’s still there. Turn around if she is.
OK! OK! If she is still along the side of the road I will U-turn at the next signal and offer to help her. Sigh, feel conflicted, sip my $4 hot drink and adjust the air temperature control.
She wasn’t there. I looked hard. Traffic was flowing fine in the opposite direction, no signs of an older woman unsteady with her groceries (or possessions?) out in front of her.
Now come the truly conflicted feelings. Missed opportunity. Selfish. Unwilling. Unkind. Disobedient.
I sit in that place for a while, eventually feeling Grace but not having yet forgiven myself. Then I find a parking spot and it’s off to get ham, champagne, and patience. Next time, I tell myself. Next time.
Ham, champagne, Christmas, January, early February now.
Costco bound, this time alone and for milk, eggs, shredded cheese, apples, graham crackers. I decide that I deserve a treat. On past the store to the drive-up cafe. Alone time and I am already feeling more decompressed.
There she is. Pushing her cart, snowslop, 4 lanes of traffic.
And the cars are moving left. My heart leaps.
Let’s do this.
I put on my hazards and I don’t get left. I pull over several yards ahead of her and get out. “Are you headed somewhere? Can I help you get there?”
Her name is Deb and she’s going only about a mile away and she wants to pay me. “You certainly cannot pay me, don’t be silly. Here, let me open the back and I’ll lift in your cart.”
The whole ride to her retired living apartment complex up the road (how often does she walk this route, I wonder?), she tells me that she wants to pay me and that she wishes her children were as helpful as me. She raised them, you know. But they’re busy now. They come, they do, but not often enough for grocery trips. She would really like to pay me, would I take a check? She could run up to her apartment and grab cash if I’d wait.
“Deb, please don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’ll get there safe and warm.” I pull up to the entrance, open the back and lift out the cart. One last denial of any sort of repayment, a warm hug and I am on my way toward milk, eggs, shredded cheese, apples and graham crackers.
But mostly, I’m on my way toward growing, learning.
And I am thankful for second chances.