Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sharing Moments

I had settled into a chair to wait while a new battery was being installed in my car. A new book was on my lap... one on teaching adolescent writers. I scanned the table of contents then turned to the introduction and began to read.

"You must be back in school," said an older lady sitting near me.

"No. I actually just got out of school. I'm a teacher," I said, momentarily stopping and turning to her.

"Oh. My daughter's a teacher," she replied. She told me her daughter's name hoping I knew her. Then shared the names of other people who live in the town where I teach. No bells rang. No name was familiar to me.

I hesitated for a moment. Just a moment. Then I slowly closed the book that I had been looking forward to reading, and I turned to my neighbor.

Her white hair was disheveled. Her glasses perched a little crooked on her nose. The bifocals not disguised. Her face weathered with a criss-cross of wrinkles that had created a road map of her life.

She told me about her daughter's long teaching career. Her moves from an English classroom to social studies and science. She told me how her daughter has changed over the years, probably from worry, she said. Worrying about a daughter who, after undergoing surgery for seizures when she was 11, has been partially paralyzed ever since. Talking and walking aren't easy for her. Now 31, this granddaughter volunteers with young children despite her challenges.

She told me about her other daughter who lives further down the road in another town. Who doesn't get by to see her very much because she's helping her husband run their business.

She told me about the work she used to do while raising her family. Mostly office work and once for the recreation department. She told me about another daughter who actually has a degree in recreation and works for the city scheduling ballgames and other recreational events.

She told me about her husband who died 11 years ago. How she still misses him.

She told me about the wreck she had, and we both looked out at her car, its front bumper damaged and patched. It was the first wreck she had ever had. She told me about the other driver who had hurt his ribs in the accident. She wondered why it's taken so long for the man to settle with her insurance company if he just had bruised or broken ribs. She'd had them before and the doctor had told her there's nothing you can do about them but let them heal on their own.

Then my car was ready. I tucked my book back into my bag and stood up to leave.

It was a little hard saying good-bye to my new friend. I didn't get her name. I didn't take her picture. But my chance meeting with this sweet lady will remain with me. A reminder of the future, maybe. Of how life can be. Lonely for someone to talk to. Willing to chat with anyone who will spend a minute or two listening.

A wealth of stories and advice. A guidepost to my future.


miruspeg said...

I read this post quickly Roban before I left to visit my Aunty today and your words stayed with me all day.

You have a very engaging way of writing and I found this a very compelling story as it aroused my emotions.

I often talk to strangers and love to listen to their stories. There is always something to learn from these encounters.

A very beautiful post Roban, very beautiful.

McMGrad89 said...

I felt like I was sitting there with you.

Are you sure you weren't sitting next to my mother? She will talk to strangers like that although she says she hates to talk.

You have left a mark on that woman's life as she did yours.

Mummy McTavish said...

I loved this post! I love those strange little chats you have while waiting for new tyres or standing in a huge line waiting to be served. I hope that when I am at that stage of life that someone will put down their book and listen to me like you did for that lady.

Caroline said...

I commend you for closing your book and turning toward her. She obviously wanted someone to talk to...I bet you made her day. It is sad sometimes to see others who seem to be struggling. But what a wake up call! I am thankful for my life and very blessed. Even better, is that you walked away with something powerful (and shared it with us)...and that was no coincidence.

Monica said...

This is such a sweet reminder that there is so much more to life than the book we brought along to read. Looking past outward appearances into the heart of the matter.