Today, the past walked in and sat down beside me.
We were all out for lunch together, happily enjoying southern barbecue, thoughts as light as air, when the door to the restaurant opened. A man in a cap opened it, and his wife walked in.
Slowly, carefully, as if every move hurt her bones.
She walked in slowly, and sat down at the table next to me. I tried not to stare at her baldness. My mother-in-law whispered to me, “Does that bring back memories?”
And yes, ohmigosh, it did.
Memories of a time when I was too weak and sick to enjoy much, and when I only had enough spoons (my internet connection today is weak; if you don’t get the reference, google “spoon theory”) to leave the house a couple times a week. I’d save up my energy for days, my husband would take me out to lunch, gently opening the door, gently pulling out my chair, and helping me every step of the way. We’d smile, and talk, and maybe start to forget the hell that we were fighting every Thursday, downtown in the chemo chair. And then, after the meal, he’d help me stand back up, open the doors for me again, and we’d go back home, where I would sleep for the rest of the day and into the next.
Oh, I remember those times.
But today, it wasn’t me. It was her. And I was healthy, happy, laughing with my husband and parents-in-law, hugging two little boys on my lap. We enjoyed the meal together.
But as I walked out of the restaurant, Little Bear and I stopped by the other table.
I wasn’t sure what to say, but I had to say something to her, this woman who was in a place I remembered so vividly. She looked so tired. So weak, and not altogether confident, there in the middle of the room. So I leaned over and told her, “I spent most of last year bald. I just wanted to tell you, you look GREAT. You have a beautifully shaped head, and it looks gorgeous on you.”
And do you know what? She smiled. She relaxed. She ran a hand over her head and said, “Do you really think so? It’s starting to grow back, finally.”
We laughed and chatted a bit, and I was careful not to assure her that it would grow back (I don’t know her from Adam, and I don’t know what kind of treatment she had), but as I left, she smiled at her husband, and they held hands across the table.
Oh yes. I remember those times.