Friday, November 30, 2012

Lending an ear: I’m 89!

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Sometimes you just need to sit back and listen in life. When I first moved to New Jersey I realized that people here like to talk. No matter if you are a stranger. Doesn’t bother them. Maybe I just have one of those sympathetic faces. I don’t know. But something I give off, be it in my mannerisms or facial expression, makes people want to tell me their stories. I needed to write this one down before I forgot.

First of all I want to say that the hair salon I go to (which is next to our Shop Rite) is a mecca for elderly ladies. Mostly they take over the salon on Fridays. They come in for their wash and set like they’ve done for their entire lives.

Yesterday when I walked in to the hair salon for my trim an elderly woman was sitting at the front of the salon. I took a chair by her, leaving one seat between us. She commented on how she thought my bag (as in purse or handbag) was handsome. She said she was waiting for her daughter to pick her up. Next thing you know she’s telling me that her daughter is a recent widow with two children ages 10 and 14. She’s only 52, you know, she told me. Had her children late in life she did. Now she’s all alone with those little ones. Her husband lived three days after his heart attack. The didn’t have any insurance on him and now she owes $50,000. He was only 54. Such a shame. She taps her cane a few times on the floor and shakes her head.

I nodded and expressed my regrets.

I’m 89, you know. Back right after the war I gave up a lot so that my husband could attend a government-funded school. He became quite successful. But after 37 years of marriage and all I gave him he left me and married somebody else. It felt wrong that I had given up so much for him and then he left. But I try not to dwell on that. Plenty of good things have happened in my life and like to think more about those. Still, sharing that seems to help me get rid of it. I hope you don’t mind.

I don’t mind at all I replied. Share away!

I’m 89 years old. I told you that, right? I’ve never smoked and didn’t really drink either. Everybody else my age was smoking but I didn’t go along with them. I’m glad of that now. I have my health. You ever smoke? she asks me. No, I reply. Never. Good for you! You got kids? No I said, they never seemed to fit into our life. She has no reply for this and seems to take it in.

As she’s doing so, I study her a bit. She looks very good for 89. Slight of build, with snow white hair and eyes that sparkle. Like many older ladies she has sprouted a pretty good mustache on her upper lip. I long to grab a pair of tweezers and pull out the thick black ones.

She squints up her eyes a bit and seems to be gazing off into the distance, thinking. She soon takes up right where she left off. Well, sort of.

I had a passionate hobby my whole life. I made pots. You know, out of clay. I was very good. My hands won’t let me work the wheel anymore. I miss it. My wheel is under the porch. I signed all my pots “Toni” on the bottom so if you ever turn over a pot and see the name “Toni” there, that’s me!

Toni is not my real name.  My real name was too difficult for people so I just started to call myself Toni. My real name is (and here she spells for me) E-M-M-O-N-D-S. Now I ask you what kind of name is that for a girl? But it’s a family name, some uncle I’m named for. I grew up around Indianapolis, all my family settled there. I’m from English stock. Had a relative in the Civil War and one was a general under Washington.

I’m 89. In great health!

At this point I see Margaret, my stylist, patiently waiting for us to finish our conversation so she can take me back for my trim.

As gently as possible I end our conversation and tell her to keep up whatever she is doing because it’s obviously working. As I head to the back of the salon, she’s still talking, only now she’s almost yelling so I will hear …

I’m 89!

Bless her heart.

Next entry: The Perfect Tree

Previous entry: The Station Agent


Welcome, I'm Lynne. You know me better as a 'new' Jersey Girl. But now I've moved once again, this time to North Carolina. Here I write about my thoughts, good food, and of course, dogs.

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