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What Comes Next

shopping seniors 4

Tizi says, Hey why don’t you Google the local stores and find out if they have special hours for senior citizens?  

And I think, But why would I do that? 

And then I remember.

I haven’t developed the habit of thinking of myself as a senior citizen. Then it hits you, like a pie in the face. A week ago, talking to my son in LA, I described our distancing regime during the pandemic.  Good, he said. Just that morning it had occurred to him that we were in greater danger. He’d remembered: we’re old. 

Yesterday I spent the day at my daughter’s.  She has two kids, five years and two years. We’d have rice and tuna ragu for lunch; and if she had it, a little chardonnay.  Driving over there around 9:00, I passed the Kroger and Plum stores where I shop, reminding me: I was supposed to bring that half a cabbage I had in the fridge. It would take me a minute to pop in and pick one up. The mind continues to work in its habitual ways. Cabbage and what else? One store, I knew, had great pears on the shelf. At the other I could get a piece of fish for the lunch we would cook together, which would go great with the rice dish.  A habit to un-develop: grocery shopping every day; the almost lifelong habit I’ve acquired of leaving the house every morning to forage for food. Two items at this store, three items at that one. Makes a lunch. Life is good.  

And so we transition, because we must, to the once-a-week plan.  If that.

It was hard not to stop, not to shop. Yesterday morning I kept going.

At 10:00 a.m. it was 60 degrees in SE Michigan yesterday. The bicycles were in the garage, tires inflated. We went for a ride, the baby behind Lisa on her bike, the boy and me on bikes. Cruising the neighborhood we passed people walking. When we stopped for a rest and a chat-at-a-distance, a woman said how refreshing it seemed, kind of; people outside in the neighborhood, on the sidewalks; said it reminded her of when she was a kid. What I thought, and didn’t say: it reminded me of the great power blackout in 2003. It was quiet, people went outside, they stood around wondering together, processing an ongoing disaster.  And here we were now, wondering, processing.

We resumed our ride. The five-year-old swerved in and out of puddles at the side of the road. Watching the baby sitting behind his mom, I flashed back to bike rides I took with her when she was that age, usually after lunch, a pleasant break from hands-on, one-on-one child care, with the pleasant motion lulling us and the cool air bathing over us, a stratagem to get her to go to sleep, which she usually dld. At length I’d feel her head nudging my lower back as she semi-collapsed forward. So we made our way home, quietly, carefully.

As we did yesterday, thinking of lunch. Fish and pears, no. Chardonnay, yes. As lunch can be, as it should be, it was almost festive. When I left in mid-afternoon, we hugged at the front door. I saw my girl near tears. She said she was afraid, the old habit of believing we are safe suddenly in serious doubt. Then she said she was worried about us. About us. Again it hit me. Again, the pie in the face. Because we are in that age group. 

Today Tizi and I lunch on chickpea soup, from one of the bags of chickpeas I bought at the crowded and chaotic Kroger last Sunday morning. We eat quietly, communicating through old married telepathy. I don’t ask for it: The Gwendolyn Brooks poem comes to mind: “The Bean Eaters.” 

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

I know: Not so fast. But just now, it’s hard not to sound an elegiac note. 

Yesterday, behind her on the bike, I imagined my daughter 25 years from now, riding behind one of her adult kids on a bike, listening to one of her jabbering miraculous grandbabies in the child seat on the back of that bike, lulled by the gentle motion, bathed in cool air. Everyone safe, looking forward to lunch together and to the possibilities in what comes next.

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