Monday, October 22, 2012

The Most Annoying Person I have Learned to Love...

The day I lost my car... I became an avid pedestrian. Every local place became THE place to go for any goods and services. I really didn't want to lose my car, but the many months of being sick and at home, on leave from work and with no paycheck, left me struggling to make ends meet -- and well, car payments were not a priority. I let the car go.

Then shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. November 17th, 2009.

I thus began to get acquainted with a certain place a lot more often than I would have liked. A certain pharmacy. God, I hate pharmacies. I hate their smell, I hate their lights, I hate the waiting... and the lectures you get every time you get your prescription refilled as if you hadn't heard them before for like the billionth time. I've also never cared for the chit-chat. You know, the chit-chat cashiers always give you when you're ready to go. I'm sort of this anti-social who just wants to grab the crap she needs, and be on her way. No eye contact, no talking... bah humbug.

But, alas, there was Sally. (Sally is not her real name.)

Sally loves and loves to talk. Sally is very social. Sally always has something to say, and engages well with customers. Sally loves talking a little too much with her customers. I think she may have even gotten a bit in trouble for it before. It's not easy to leave Sally's side, by the register. Heck, she sometimes even comes over to you while you're in the isle to talk to you while you shop! She's always full of stories -- about the weather, about how things used to be in Ames, about her cat, about how things used to be in her hometown, about what's on sale, about what the best and most addicting snacks are, about her younger years when she used to have a career in social work, etc. Needless to say, Sally is very annoying.

Some days, when Rod and I used to go into the pharmacy together, we'd find ways to try and avoid Sally -- especially if we were in a hurry. Sometimes, we'd just want to shop in peace. Sometimes, we might have even gone to a different place altogether. But... in Iowa, politeness reigns. If we failed avoiding her, we'd still listen to Sally. Conversation began to get so involved... that now we'd be telling Sally our own woes.

Sally knew when I had no job or when I was underemployed with few hours, or when we were sick; when we had many, many struggles. Sally has often given us career advice, and even advocated for us.

In 2010, a devastating flood of epic proportions (the last of it's kind seen 500 years ago), hit Iowa. It affected the resources and properties of many folk. Our town lost a lot of water mains and pipes, and the water supply became contaminated. The advice was: purchase water, and if you're poor, please go to these local water dispensing sites we've set up. The problem was the water dispensing sites were SO far away, we couldn't get to them. Buses weren't going by certain areas either, because of flooding. Rod and I bought what little water we could, but then had no money left over for actual food. (And you know, with type 2 diabetes that's being treated with only diet, that's a rough ride... you have to seriously mind your carbohydrate consumption and you just can't survive on ramen noodles like someone else with a working pancreas could.)

Local Target store's parking lot, during the floods of 2010

I don't recall why we were at the pharmacy that day... but Sally asked about our day, and how we were faring with the floods, and well... we told her our woes, as had become usual. Sally, as it turns out, had been worried about us. Sally took us to the Red Cross -- Sally got us more water, and Sally took us to the supermarket and bought us food. Sally had endeared herself to us. Her quirky little self got into our hearts. She still, would sometimes, annoy the crap out of us... but our appreciation for her glossed over all that stuff. The stuff of being ourselves, squeaky wheels and all.

I don't believe in a god... and I don't believe that 'god' is love. I believe that LOVE is God. I believe WE are 'God' to one another, when we are in need, and our humanity calls... and we respond with love. And that day, when we needed her most, Sally WAS 'God.' Sally helped us see another healthy tomorrow... and not struggle for today. Sally was also... our advocate. Sally KNEW we had type 2 diabetes... Sally RESPONDED to those needs. (WE can be patient advocates to ANYONE with a chronic illness, with their needs, ANY given day of the week. The opportunities are everywhere. Look for them. THIS is also part of advocacy. Being the glue that connects everything... when all else has failed.) 

Now... about a few weeks ago, I started noticing something wrong in my daily trips to the pharmacy. I really didn't see Sally as often, anymore, and she didn't seem as chatty as her usual self, anymore either. She seemed tired, and I thought to myself, "She looks like she's aging pretty fast; she looks a lot older than she was a month ago." (I didn't say anything.) I really had begun to MISS my daily encounters with Sally, and that daily inconvenience of having to stop and talk to her... while in a hurry to God knows where. "Maybe she's just cut back on hours," I had wondered... or maybe she's got a second job...  or maybe she was spending more time with visiting family. (She always spoke fondly of family far away -- or with annoyance -- depending on who the family member was. lol)

But today, walking home from work, I heard a voice yelling at me from a block behind "Why are you walking in such a hurry?! I can't catch up with you!" I stopped, and turned around. I saw it was Sally... and I got a little annoyed that I had to stop, and wait for her... It had been a pretty tiring day for me, and my carpal tunnel was worse for the wear. Sally lives a block from where I live, and she wanted to chat while we walked. Fine, I could entertain this.

She asked me about ME, first. How I was doing... how Rod was doing. How we were coping along with life. She pointed to her new hair cut... and how she wanted it shorter, for it's getting so fine these days, it's harder to style. I don't really care, but I politely listen anyway... (Ever the eternal Oscar the Grouch.) Then she gently eases into the topic... The chemotherapy has been really hard... and Sally can't manage it anymore. I am one of the special, chosen people in her world, that she has decided to tell... and no one else. Sally only has 4 months left to live.

I politely listen... offer my company... offer to spend time with her when she's stir-crazy at home, if anything. Sally can't drive anymore, which is just the same... because honestly, I still don't have a car. We can ride the bus together, she says. It'll be good. It'll be fun.

I offer to walk her all the way to her place, but she declines. I give her my cell phone number. We say our goodbyes, and I go home. I reach the bathroom, and undress. I break down and cry, and cry... and cry...

I don't know Sally's real name. I've never asked.


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