My guardian angel is apparently an 85-year-old former Rockette from Brooklyn.
The past few weeks have been some of the most difficult of my college career. Financial stress, picking up bartending shifts, what seems like impossible deadlines, exponentially growing coursework, no time to look for jobs, Easter holiday planning, balancing blended families, parental responsibilities, and so on and so on. My gratitude had fallen and I was struggling to remember why I had decided to even go back to school in my 30’s.
Then I met the Rockette. I’m going to call her Miss R. I don’t know her name, but I know a lot about her. She is 85 and recently totaled her little 14-year-old red car that she drove to Alachua, Florida, from Brooklyn, New York. She cried when they said it was totaled and again when they didn’t give her enough money for it to buy a new one. The day I met her was her first experience using the bus, and her first time away from home in almost 4 months.
I was standing behind her in the line to the only lane open and she was handing the cashier a grocery cart to help her cross the busy street to the senior center with her purchases. When I walked up, the cashier and another employee were attempting to set up the cart so she could put the bags inside. The minutes ticked on by and the people behind me left for other places in the store to check out. I knew I was going to be late to pick up my daughter from school.
To be honest, I wasn’t even at Walmart to shop, I was meeting a woman who was buying a wall hanging I was selling for extra cash and decided to run in to grab air freshener since life with kids and animals stinks…literally. What I thought was going to be a quick run in and out was showing signs of not happening. The cart was finally complete and I could tell Miss R was stressed and upset. She turned to me and said, “I’m sorry. I need this cart to get my groceries to the bus. I’ve never done this before and it’s been 40 years since I’ve needed to ride a bus but my car was totaled and I’m just so lost without it.”
It was as though all of my stress and worry about my problems fell away and I was able to finally breathe again. None of my worries were life altering. None of my stress was any worse than any others I’ve dealt with in life. So I only had enough money to get me a month past graduation? So what. I have 15 years of serving and bartending experience I can figure something out to get by. Homework is overwhelming? So what. I have A’s in my classes and I could fail this entire week and still get B’s. No time to look for a job? So what. I can pound the pavement the day after graduation and make it work. Holiday planning? Ha! Who cares! The ONLY thing that matters is that I have a beautiful blended family and people who don’t care if we eat prime rib or peanuts as long as we are together.
I helped Miss R navigate the chip system for her debit card since that was also new to her, and walked her outside. I told her to have a lovely day and began walking to my car. I knew I was almost late already, but something held me back. I turned and looked at the parking lot, the curb Miss R was attempting to drag her cart over and the incredibly busy highway she was going to need to cross shortly after…and ran back over to Miss R. I took her cart, hauled it up and over into the grass and grabbed her arm and said I would love to help her over to the senior center.
It was a significant walk made a little longer due to her slight limp, which she explained was due to a fall she had that also made it impossible for her to dance, which she has done since she was 5 years old. Miss R danced her entire life and did it well, considering she high-kicked her way into becoming an honest to god Rockette in New York City. She said she spent years dancing at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, and only left when another company offered her more money to travel the world. And travel she did. She traveled her entire life, spending the most time (only 2 years) in Germany.
She said she had danced 5 days a week at the senior center we were quickly approaching until injuries from her fall curtailed that lifelong hobby. Here was an 85-year-old woman (With WAY better legs than I have EVER had) alone and experiencing the loss of her car, her independence she had because of it and her passion, dance, and here she was, out learning how to survive…and with lipstick on.
If Miss R can do it, and in style, so can I.
The gigantic bottle of wine she bought is probably a good idea too.