At the grocery store, I spotted an older woman struggling to reach a carton of milk on a high shelf. I darted over to help her, and she gushed with gratitude.
“Oh, thank you so much,” she said, as I placed the carton carefully in her cart. She beamed proudly and continued,
“Now, you can tell everyone that you helped a 100-year-old lady, today!”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was walking slowly, yet steadily without assistance, was animated and lively in her conversation, and sharp as a tack!
“No, you must be kidding me,” I insisted. You can’t POSSIBLY be 100!”
A grateful smile lit up her face. She nodded her head to allay any doubts and told me she was born in 1916. Then she leaned in closer to me as if she were about to reveal a deep, dark secret and said,
“AND I still have all my own teeth!”
I laughed and congratulated her on this great accomplishment. Her sense of pride was almost palpable.
I asked if I could take her photo and without missing a beat, she said, “I’d be honored. And, by the way, my name is Rachael,” as she stretched out her hand to greet mine.
As she moved her cart to continue along her refrigerated-foods journey, I found myself trailing alongside my new friend just in case she needed additional assistance, and we chit-chatted amiably for a good twenty minutes, right to the checkout aisle.
Rachael told me that her own mother had lived past 100, as did one of her aunts. She still lives independently and does all her own cooking, as evidenced by the fresh produce and various ingredients I spotted in her carriage.
She went on to say that she gets together with friends from time to time and still drives to the grocery store as she lives just a few blocks away. Local driving is the most she does, now.
The more we talked, I found myself hanging on her every word. Among the pearls of wisdom she shared was her fondness for doing word-search puzzles. She told me this as she reached over to pick up a ‘Jumble’ puzzle book as we ambled over to the magazine section.
“It helps me keep my wits about me,” she explained, with a twinkle in her eye.
(So, I thought I’d throw one of those puzzle books in my cart, just for good measure!)
I followed her into the checkout line and casually helped her place her items on the counter as she opened up her purse to pull out her wallet. Then, as the clerks tallied her up and placed her bags in her cart, I prepared to say our goodbyes as I began to unload my own items.
Then I noticed her walk a few more feet and park her cart to the side of the aisle near the exit, and casually glance my way.
She was waiting for me.
Moments later, we rolled – side by side – out into the parking lot, still talking about this-and-that. I saw her slowly veer to the right as she made her way to where her car was parked. Mine was the other way.
Then she looked over at me and said,
“This was one of the most pleasant grocery store visits I’ve had in a long time. Maybe I’ll see you again, soon!”
I waved and smiled warmly and told her I felt exactly the same.
We live in an amazing age. And the gifts of simple, yet beautiful human interactions surround us at every turn; you just have to learn how to spot them. Especially lovely centenarians.
It was an honor to meet you, Rachael.