A Stranger’s Tears

“It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.” I read those words in my manuscript, then wrote them for myself. I’m sitting here at my Friday work spot and see two elderly ladies having lunch with a younger one at the table next to mine. The young woman makes sure they’re well taken care of, placing their orders, getting napkins, grabbing their food from the counter.

These two have no idea how much they are making me miss my mother. Neither of them looks like she did, but they still remind me of her. An empty chair sits undisturbed at the table. I imagine my mother sitting there with them. Oh, how she loved to go out to lunch with her friends. It was one of her favorite things to do. She would plan her outfits well in advance and look so forward to the day. These two ladies in their fashionable togs have likely done the same thing. It doesn’t matter that the temperature will reach the low 90s today; their sweater sets and socks defy the August heat.

The silver-haired beauty leans over to whisper to the redhead. I think she senses my constant looking over there. I imagine the redhead hasn’t yet embraced the fact that she’s in her late 70s and has gone gray. I’ll probably be the same way when I’m her age.

The young woman takes their empty cups and tosses them away, saving the ladies a few steps. They’re happy. They’re smiling. They’re enjoying the young one’s company. She’s making them feel young and loved. They’re bringing tears to my eyes. I quietly thank them from ten feet away for making me think of my sweet Mama today and bringing her up close to my heart.

Oh dear, the redhead drops her napkin. My heart leaps as I almost jump out of my seat to go get it for her. She quite capably leans to her side to retrieve it herself.

I hear the young woman say she will go get the car and pull it around front for them. Two chairs now sit unoccupied. Oh no, don’t do it, DJ. Don’t get up. Leave them alone. Wait, oh, I feel myself being pulled over there without any chance of putting on the brakes. Here I go…

Okay, I did it. I went to speak to them, but I could hardly talk intelligibly. Overcome with emotion, I cried like a baby as I stumbled over getting the words out. At first I thought I might be scaring them to death, but almost immediately they both reached out and took my hands. The silver haired Betty, and the redhead Lucy. How appropriate. I love Lucy.

A few minutes later, I’m back in my chair and see the young woman has arrived back to get them. The incident is punctuated with the fact that Lucy walks humped over exactly the way my tiny, little mother did. She looks just like Mama walking away.

God, thank you for this brief encounter, these cleansing tears, and the beauty of strangers who reached out to me. Please overlook the mascara running down my cheeks.

I’m a Word Nerd

I’m a word nerd, and I am not ashamed. If in school today, I’d probably fall into the category of the “Teacher, Teacher, you forgot to assign us homework” kid. Don’t hate me. We all have our vices. Mine happens to be a penchant for vocabulary words.

I haven’t always been this way. Well, maybe I have, but I wasn’t going to admit it. In my high school days, I remember the teacher would write a list of words on the chalkboard. Our assignment was to copy them, look them up in a dictionary (those were hardbound books filled with definitions), write the parts of speech, definition, and make up a sentence. I would usually use my best penmanship (an ink pen, not a quill and dipping well), and get started on my assignment. Neatness counted in my spiral notebook.

I still remember some of the words from eleventh grade English class: pulchritude and puissance come to mind.

My high school sons have no idea how good they have it with their Wordly Wise 3000 books rather than the spiral notebooks and handwritten lists I used. The books are divided into 20 lessons which last an entire school year. Each lesson contains fifteen words with five different types of exercises to test the student’s understanding of the word. Even the Internet pitches in to help. The book has an easy-to-use website for each edition of the book and each lesson.

To begin a new lesson, we first log on to the website to listen and quiz ourselves. It’s easy to turn it on while I’m tootling around in the kitchen. It got to be funny last year, because with the WW site bookmarked, it always began in a man’s voice, “Bewail, say bewail.” So we started this school year the same way, listening to the list and completing the first section. Except this time the same man said, “Asperity, say asperity.” It worked. 2son got all the answers correct on the first section, though he may have bewailed my making him listen to it.

The next day, I ran through the list of words on the site. If 2son didn’t remember the definition, we listened to the entire word segment before moving on. He completed the next two sections, scoring 38 out of 39 correct. Bingo! It’s working, once again.

Putting in the extra time and attention pays off for him, as I’m sure his strong vocabulary scores will help balance his I-hate-to-read scores that are sure to follow. It’s such a joy for me to grade his work, since he’s putting in the effort unlike his older brother who prefers the circle-any-answer-is-the-game-on-yet method. But I may be the one benefitting most of all. Quality homeschooling time with my son, seeing his success, and learning palabras nuevas that I may have missed in my own spiral notebooks. I say that with no asperity in my voice at all.