Waiting in line at my local hardware store yesterday afternoon, getting some keys made for a friend, I found myself standing behind an elderly woman. She was buying a mop, some light bulbs, a few bottles of cleaning products and a few other things I couldn’t see clearly. She wore a curly brown wig that was slightly mashed in the back and a dark plaid cloth coat. I watched as she counted cash out into the palm of the man waiting on her. As he reached into the drawer for her change, she specifically asked that she be given dimes instead of quarters and I heard her say under her breath, “yes, dimes are good.” I couldn’t help but wonder what she uses the dimes for.
After her change was tucked back into her snap-top pouch, she reached into her handbag and pulled out two fairly recently photographs.
She held them up, side by side and said to the man who was waiting on her, “You told me to bring pictures of my husband in. Now do you remember him?”
He raised his half-moon reading glasses to his eyes and studies the pictures that she held up. “Yes, yes. I remember him. He was a good customer and a kind man.”
Although I was standing behind her, I could tell that she broke into a smile by the way her shoulders relaxed and the brown wig shifted. “Oh, he was!”
The clerk spent several minutes with her. He listened and reached out to pat her hand twice. She spoke in sentences that came out in spurts, as if she needed time between each one before moving on to the next.
“We were married 50 years.”
“I was lucky to have him and unlucky to lose him.”
“It was metastatic bone cancer, that grew from a small skin cancer.”
“He always did everything for me, but I’m learning. I don’t have a choice.”
You’d think I lived in a small town for the way the clerk took the time with her to remember her husband. But I don’t. This took place at a busy independent hardware store on Chestnut Street, in the middle of Center City. And I was happy to wait a little extra in order to give them the time. It is moments like these that remind me how much I love people and the many ways there are to express love and appreciation for another person.