Monday, January 21, 2019

Connie is a Hugger

There is a very kind cashier at the Dollar Store in Richfield.  She is so welcoming and always asks if I found everything I was looking for.  I joke with her that I was never really looking for all the crap I am buying, but...we snicker longer than necessary.  She says she struggles the same way at Target.  It is like we are sisters or something. Oh the struggle is real.

Last Tuesday afternoon,  there was quite the line, and I was in a hurry. Usually I am not.  She hollers over to me, "Kelli! Come on down! I am ready for you!" She knows my name.  I mean, I know her as Connie, but I didn't think she would ever remember my name.  She waits on so many customers each day.  After one of our first meetings when I was sure to go to her lane,  I introduced myself and saw her name on her name tag and told her it was nice to meet her and I enjoyed talking to her.

I noticed her hands were very rough and one knuckle was bleeding. I told her on her break to go and buy one of Dove extra moisturizing lotions and that her hands would feel so much better. She told me the gluten free protein bars that were new at the end of her register were very good. But that I should buy the carrot and black bean not the carrot and corn bar.  She was right. It was really good.

Connie asked what the rest of my day looked liked today as she was ringing up my items.  I told her I was done with work, heading to the grocery store and heading home. I was planning on cooking a ham and making a salad and then bringing my son to youth group.  She laughed and told me I was ambitious. I realized too that I wasn't going to accomplish everything that I wanted to.  I asked Connie the same.  She paused for a minute and said that when she was done with work, she would stop at her mom's apartment, make her some food and do some light housekeeping before going home to her family.  Connie told me that she is her mother's primary care giver.  And her mom really isn't able to take to care of herself anymore.  She stops in every morning to get her up and moving and fed, showered and changed and then she makes sure she is comfortably seated in her lounger with at least three books, her water bottle, snacks, a phone and the remote.  She said she always puts a plate in fridge for her mom so she has a nice easy meal to eat in her absence.

When Connie explained what her days look like, she didn't once complain. She wasn't telling me so that I would give her accolades or feel bad for her situation. She was sharing with me all about her daily life, because it is her current reality. She felt comfortable enough to reveal herself.  I asked if her mother was ill. She said her mom had a few ailments, but that she had never been the same since her dad died.  She said the last two years had been really hard on her mom and she felt she had witnessed her mother age a lifetime right before her eyes.  Once vibrant and always ready for an adventure, now needed help bathing and and putting her socks on. She then told me her mom is only 60.

I was taken aback. The lines thinned out behind me and no one else was waiting to check out as they had all gone to other check out lanes. Connie and I then spoke about the physical and mental affects of sudden onset grief.  She said she feels like she has earned a college degree in care giving and felt like it wasn't a degree she ever wanted.  I was silent for a bit when Connie told me this.  What a revelation.  Knowledge and experience not wanted. A degree not sought after.

I shared with Connie, that my mom had passed away almost 6 years ago and lived in an assisted living facility as her physical needs were too great.  That she passed away within 2 1/2 months of being diagnosed with a stage four rare liver cancer. I told her that I hadn't been her caregiver. But I did learn a few important lessons.  I learned to ask questions and ask even more questions. I learned to get second opinions and google and get feedback from friends and family. But most importantly, I learned to listen to my mom.  About what she was thinking and feeling. About her dreams and desires and also about her fears. I learned to listen to what she wanted and didn't want when her time came.  I also learned that promising my mom that I would honor her wishes brought her peace and comfort. These lessons were learned at a very challenging time. But these were lessons that I needed to learn. And it was my mother who was the best teacher.

Connie and I both teared up a bit.  She handed me my receipts and my three small bags.  I thanked her for sharing with me.  "Connie.  I see you.  Know this time spent loving and serving your mom is time well spent.  It is hard and challenging and sometimes so exhausting. But this is also time you will never regret."  She smiled walked around from her register and hugged me.  I let her be the one to let go first.

I love interactions like this.  The meeting of two hearts who have something in common.  And that hug.  I might need to go back for another one next very soon.  :)

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