Greetings from CancerLand: Old, She Said

Alysa Cummings
Alysa Cummings

Saturday around noon there was a traffic jam at the Acme; a noticeable back up of shoppers heading southbound down aisle 5, right by the pretzel and candy displays (bags of Hershey miniatures on sale; two for six dollars with Supercard). All because of a slow moving senior citizen using her wagon as a walker, inching her way forward on shaky legs, one tentative step at a time. Backed up behind the elderly woman and unable to navigate the narrow crowded aisle to get around her, were a diverse bunch of Saturday supermarket shoppers – a young mom tending to her crying baby in a carrier, a man chatting a bit too loudly on a cell phone hands-free (probably to his wife to clarify exactly what he was supposed to bring home for dinner), and three teenage boys prowling for snacks. We all know these people. On any given weekend, we just might be one of these people. However, these shoppers of all ages with their long lists of places to go and things to buy, were unfortunately stuck dead in supermarket traffic. Lucky me, I was pushing my wagon north up the aisle, approaching the drama from the other direction. Don’t you just love these wonderful small human comedies? I’m always on the lookout for them – even more so since my cancer diagnosis. One of the great lessons I’ve learned in CancerLand is to practice living in the moment; not agonize over ancient history or obsess over what might happen in the near future, but appreciate instead the incredible specialness of “now,” – right here, right now. And as a result, hopefully tune in and experience life in a more mindful way. So here was an opportunity to practice doing just that, in aisle 5 of the neighborhood Acme. In fact, in the next moment we came face to face – the grey haired woman blocking aisle 5 supermarket traffic and me. Our eyes locked in that moment. I smiled and so did she, the countless wrinkles on her face framing a pair of twinkling blue eyes. We seemed to connect. I spoke first, Good morning how are you today? I asked. What did I expect the elderly stranger’s response to be? A nod of acknowledgement? A perfunctory fine, how are you? Instead what I heard as she moved slowly and deliberately past me towards the soda and tonic water at the end of the aisle, the group of shoppers still queued up impatiently behind her, was a punchline masterfully delivered with a comic’s timing. The response to my good morning, how are you today? was one word; just one word, that said it all. Old, she said.

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