I felt the air caress my arms when she breezed into the room. She was bent slightly from the weight of her ninety-three years, but her personality stood tall. Her mind was sharp enough to cut through the nonsense of today’s world. Temptation gave up its chase. There was no reason for it to pursue her any longer. She had outrun and overcome the crafty beast and was not about to succumb to its drama now. She was the epitome of a lady and was comfortable with it.
There is something called a generation gap that sometimes robs people of understanding each other. I am not overcome with that condition.I was raised in an environment that was so backward, that I get along with people twenty years older than me and in some cases, thirty. That is why I thought it a wonderful thing when she brought me a loaf of bread. My friend shared her bounty with me. There is something special about that action that pierces the heart if one realized the implication of meaning. Bread is a symbol of life. For her to share with me symbolizes that we are all here to celebrate life, together. Breaking bread together represents an intimacy that is much deeper than it seems.
Today I thought about that level of intimacy. Many excellent restaurants design and position tables in such a manner as to provide a secluded area for people who are in love to partake of a nice meal. I have never been to one like that but, several years ago, I went to a place in McAlester, Oklahoma that provided a *family type room* for privacy. I took my teenage grandchildren there after a day of Christmas shopping and let them order off of the menu. My eyes nearly popped our of my head when one of them ordered calf fries. I had the same reaction when they actually ate and enjoyed them. It was a night to remember for all of us.
You know, it’s not the same thing when we go out to eat and are in a room full of people all breaking bread together. We are just people eating in the same room. The specialness comes from wanting to have our meal together.
One cannot think about life, without also thinking of death. As I was styling my little customer’s hair, she looked up at me so intensely, that I stopped working to hear what she was trying to tell me.
Sadly she said, ” I went to a funeral this week. My very best friend in the whole world died. It was her funeral. I don’t see well anymore, and my son drove his car to take me.”
Her little voice quivered a bit and again those faded, blue eyes stared into mine, pleading for me to listen. She didn’t need to be heard; she needed understanding.
She went on to say, ” I am ninety-three years old and I am the last withered leaf on the tree. The rest have all fallen off and the winds of life have blown them away. That was the last of my old friends and I have lost my husband. Still, I live. Here I am and I don’t know why.”
I had no wisdom for her but in all sincerity said, “And, we are glad you are! You brighten the room when you come.”
I’m not sure she believed me but, she smiled slightly. I was at a loss for words. My heart did understand what she was trying to convey. My mind traveled across time and space to drudge up faces of my friends who I am still fortunate to have. Someday, one of us will lose the other and a deeper understanding of the withered leaf will reveal itself to the survivor. Until then, I hold their friendship close to my heart. They sustain me.
I am a fortunate person. I am blessed to have a profession that is a perfect seedbed to formulate friendships with diverse people that come from interesting places or have intriguing stories. Being a hairstylist for forty-four years, I have had the privilege of being a friend to many and at the same time, am humbled by the number of friends I have made. Being a realist, I know I cannot work forever, but I dread the day, I cannot, and I dread the thought of being the withered leaf.