This entry captures a moment in time during the beginning of my emergence, when I needed to work as a grocery store cashier to pay my living expenses. The job was humbling, exhausting, and low paying. However, I was careful to be as present as I could with each customer who walked through my line. Many of them, it turned out, had important lessons to share.
Today an old woman walks up to my check out line. I quickly take in her appearance — her long, silver gray hair, the sagging skin beneath her eyes and her large, wrinkled hands.
Assuming that she wants just a few of her purchases in each bag (most older people ask me to pack their food bags lightly), I start to open some extra paper bags for her.
But the woman tosses her own cloth bag onto my conveyor belt. Then she slaps down a six pack of beer, along with a few lemons, a chocolate cake and a large package of organic roast beef.
“Just put everything in there,” she commands. “I’m just an old broad but I can handle it.”
One of the store supervisors walks by, peers at the woman’s feet, and says she thinks the woman’s dog is cute. I peek over my register. I love dogs.
“I bought Meers some roast beef today,” the woman says.
She takes a strip of the roast beef from its package and plops it into the dog’s open mouth.
“I used to make my dog, Luna, meatloaf,” I say.
It is slow at the store so the woman and I talk awhile. We fall into an intimate banter about how great it is to feed dogs foods that they truly love and how absolutely wonderful it is to cuddle with them at night. Meers snores, the woman says, and giggles conspiratorially.
Luna, my Beagle, snored, I tell her. The sound was like my sleeping tonic.
The store is quiet, the slow time before lunch hour. The woman leans into my counter as she asks me: “Is Luna still around?”
“No,” I say. “She died of cancer.”
“I HATE when that happens,” the woman quips. “I mean what the hell?”
Nearly four years have passed since Luna passed away. I still fight back tears when I think about her.
“How old was she?”
“That’s pretty good,” the woman says. “That’s a nice chunk of time.”
I begin to feel grateful instead of sad,
“I’m a Buddhist,” the woman says. “I believe there is a lesson in everything ”
“What do you think the lesson is in dogs living such short periods of time?” I ask her.
“The lesson,” the woman says loudly, interrupting my thoughts about my old life with Luna, my mom and my horses. “is the drastic need for us to put ourselves intensely in the present moment.”
She stares at me
So often, my customers say the darnndest things to me — things I really need to hear.
“My dog is 6,” the woman says. “I am 86.”
With a great heave, the woman slings her heavy grocery bag over her thin shoulder.
Then she picks up her dog, tucks him into her chest, and walks away.
By Lori Teresa Yearwood