The line reached into the aisle of cold medicine and decongestants. There were three people ahead of me. I had an appointment for 10:30 to get my Covid Vaccination but we got stuck behind a tractor on the way to CVS so I was late.
Now I saw it didn’t matter.
What I didn’t know was that I’d be standing in line for an hour, having an unforgettable conversation with and 80year old woman.
I don’t remember who started it, but by the time the pharmacist called my name I had gotten her life story.
She was shorter even than me. A fit woman well dressed with short gray hair, just the right amount of makeup and a sparkle in her eye.
She’s been a nurse for forty years, and took care of her husband when he was dying. “After I retired I knew I couldn’t be in my house with nothing to do all day long,” she told me, “so I started volunteering.” She smiled, “You know how that is, once they see you’re good at something they don’t let you go.”
After getting her covid vaccination she told me she was taking a refresher exercise course. She’d been teaching exercise to seniors for years a the local library and every year there was more to learn.
She also got in trouble because she spends too much time talking to the people who she brings meals too. “You’re only suppose to stay for ten minutes, but some of the people are so lonely they just want someone to talk to. I always feel bad leaving them,” she told me.
During covid she had to give it all up since every place she volunteered shut down. She told me, with great sadness, about a friend whose husband and son refused to get the first covid vaccines and they died two days apart from each other from virus.
She lived in town her whole life, but in a few years she had plans to move into an In-law apartment at her daughter’s house in the country. She bragged about how well she and her grandson get along and that he is a teenager who isn’t afraid to cry.
When it was my turn to get my shot, I turned and waved at the woman as I walked away. She waved back and that was the last I would see of her.
I never did get her name, but for days after I kept thinking of her.
She was one of those people I think of as angels. Not that they aren’t real or of this earth. But they come along at a particular time, and are for one reason or another unforgettable, then they seem to disappear.
I left CVS thinking of how much I admired this woman who for some reason told me her life story. I loved her spunk and love of life. How she was determined to help other people and not feel sorry for herself. How she was thinking ahead and being practical about where she was in her life. Being realistic about what she was capable of and what she would need to change. Acknowledging what she might need to leave behind.
I only knew her for an hour, but this small woman in CVS had become a role model for me.
It was only when I was driving home that I thought about the mushrooms.
“And you should see all the mushrooms in the woods where my daughter lives,” she said to me “I never would have imagined there were so many different types, so many different colors. My daughter sends me pictures of them.”
Of course, I knew just what she was talking about. As she talked about the mushrooms I was in the woods, surrounded by all those wonderfully strange and colorful fungi.
That’s the moment that comes back to me. As if she reached into my own life to cement the connection between us.
Now that I think about it, there was something fairy-like about her. Something magical. And it made me think that I don’t have just one mother in this life, but if I open myself up to them, there can be many.
People who enter my life for years or just minutes who have a bit of wisdom to share, something I need to hear, or learn, or an affirmation of what I already believe.