Monday, October 14, 2013

Rising to the Occasion of the Publix Interlude

There were many years when stopping by Publix on the way home was my social life.  Picking up three children from day care, then driving to the store was a moment of transition.  It let me move between work and home.  It let me make a plan for dinner.  It let me see people in a casual environment, while towing three behind me.  I would see other neighbors, mothers with kids in tow, work comrades, and of course the folks that worked there. Nothing like hanging out in the vegetable section, gabbing about someone's new baby over the carrots.

Flash forward and the kids are gone.  Guess what?  Publix continues to be a source of meeting and greeting my neighbors, my horse club friends, my co workers and the Publix employees.  Nothing like talking about your daughter's graduation over the organic yet packed in plastic, spinach boxes.

So, sauntering through the dairy section, a woman spots me and comes over for a hug.  She is a FB friend and a former employee.  She is happy to see me; she is one of those enthusiastic happy to see you everywhere, people.  Her smile is bigger than Texas and her hug equally so.  We are catching up on family, while I secretly eyeball the discount shelf. She asks about my only daughter.  I tell her she is backpacking through Europe for two and half months, she graduated form UF, she has not decided on her life and I am scared.  She is going to be alone for many weeks.  somewhere by now is her blog, which I can tell you doesn't make me feel better.  I tell her that her father is joining her in Croatia and that I will join her in Paris.  We are chatting and  a voice comes from behind the discount rack, "Oh my gosh, she will be fine, don't worry a second!"

And we look around and this woman comes out to tell us her story.  Her daughter fell in love here in Tallahassee.  She dated and then the young man decided to go back to his first girl friend.  The daughter is distraught and calls Mom and says, "I am selling everything and I leaving for Europe for as long as I can."

Her cart full of cheese and chips, she stops to tell us her daughter's story.  She left after the break up, touring Europe for a few months.  She lived mostly in hostels and then several nights on the streets.  Not good decisions, the mother says.  My daughter went right after the 9/11 attack.  " I was terrified and begged her to wait. She emailed me every two days.  And at some point, I needed to believe she would be okay.  And I did." Then she told us that something changed.  The young man realized the mistake.  He flew to Paris to propose.  Or maybe he flew to Rome.  I sort of forgot where he went, because this is a movie moment.  And now, they have two children and are celebrating their 10 year anniversary.  Romance, success, love and a grandmother.  Gotta love Publix.

It reminded me of my sister's visit so many years ago.  My then boyfriend had dumped me.  I took my dog to the vet, and the vet said,  "why don't you go stay at my farm in Indiana and meet my nephew?"  I was planning on going, but then, I got a job.  My sister chose to go, thinking she would be a writer, living on a farm.  Well, that story ends with three beautiful children.  And my family had many fun years in Indiana.  I bet she had many years in the local store, picking up the children and visiting with the neighbors.  Farm communities arer different, but all mom's yacking is the same.

The last three Publix stories I have to tell you are about cancer and worse.

I saw a person that I used to work with standing in the check out line a few years ago.  I said, "Hi, oh my gosh, you cute your hair!"  When I saw her, I reached up and touched it and said how cute the cut looks.  The hair clumped in my hand and fell on the floor in the check out line.  Her chemo was kicking in and her hair was falling out.  Breast Cancer.  She died ten weeks later.  I hated that moment.  I loved her courage standing in a check out line trying to do normal things while she knew she was dying. This story is ten years old.  Flash forward.

A fellow horse mom lost a child.  The disease was sudden and so sad.  Back then, I did not have the back bone or skills to say hello to a mom across the vegetable isle.  How does the social chat work in a grieving situation?  How do you look at her across the carrots and express your empathy?  I failed.

Next, I saw a woman in the vegetable isle, who I knew had breast cancer treatment.  She is also a horse person.  A brave, creative, fun, energetic, person.  I told her about my daughter, and she said, "oh my, Peggy, be so happy for her that you can afford it, that she can do it, she is having the adventure of her life!"  And I worried about terrorists and bombs.  She is finishing chemo and terrorists can't scare a cancer fighter.  Especially one that fights like a girl.

Who is safe, who is not, how can we be better, stronger, protect them more.  I am asking all of you to look into their eyes.  If they are busy and on the way home, then good.  But if they are slow, if they are teary, don't turn away.  Stop.  What most people want it comfort and safety.  Hug them and tell them that they are confirmed.  You don't have to agree.  You just have to validate who they are and how they feel.

So here is to the stores, the visits, the Mom's on the way home. Next time you see her, every her and any her, ask her how she is doing.  I bet she needs to tell you.  And you need to hear her.  And best of all, you might hear some good advice about your life.  None of knows when our daughters will leave for Paris or when cancer will strike.  Ladies, take heed.