Patty at the CVS
At this point, the front-of-the-store cashier, Patty, had thanked me a least four times for my patience. I have to admit, she seemed impressed. I wanted to tell her that after you bury a child, things like waiting too long in a store are hollow.
I wouldn’t say I’m patient, per se.
Patience is a weird, tricky buggar for me these days: Unpredictable, unreliable. It’s noticeably (sometimes quite impressively) very present in some scenarios…and others? I’m ghosted. It’s MIA. No one is impressed and there are no compliments.
I could tell you which contexts my patience is reliably nowhere to be found but then I’d have to kill you.
Also, I have essentially no wall or shelf space for any more framed family photos at home so that’s why I was at the CVS photo kiosk ordering more.
This CVS was having connectivity problems so the printer kept going offline.
I watched Patty efficiently ring up other customers, keep checking on my printer, and glance back at me.
My blood pressure was humming softly, quietly along. No big whoop. I had things to do, places to be, but nowhere to go.
Patty had finally gathered my stack of various-sized prints and placed them into a large envelope. As she was deciding how best for me to carry out my four 11×14 photos, she noticed the same two people.
“Are these your parents?”
“Yes, my mom passed away two years ago and my dad two weeks ago.”
Her eyes widened. She made a little o with her mouth.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
She looked more intently at their faces and took them in.
“They are beautiful. You cannot replace your parents….”
She continued to tell me about her story of losses, about her family in Tehran and unfortunate family dynamics—and the excruciating memory of how a travel delay cost her the chance to say one last goodbye to her mom.
I got the feeling she really needed to talk. Maybe unburden. It turned into a grief group.
The irony that she was significantly increasing my wait time was not lost on me. I was afraid to turn around to see what the line status was behind me.
She began to cry. And so did I.
I never even got to tell her that I also lost my son. That tomorrow is eleven months without him.
It wasn’t necessary.
This is my regular CVS and I’ve seen Patty countless times over the years. We’ve never had a conversation other than something like, her “That’ll be…” or “You can swipe your card now” and my “Thank you.”
But yesterday, Patty and I had a moment of connectivity.
I could almost hear my internal shutter-click, capturing—documenting—treasuring—this moment.
I wish I could print it out and put it on my wall.
I could make space.