I left Walmart today in tears, and this time it wasn’t because the fresh ginger was $3.98 a pound (it was, and I’ll probably end up throwing most of it out, again) or that so many of the plants on the clearance rack were nearly dead (they were, but I couldn’t fit them all in my cart). Nor was it the People of Walmart – although I did see a few interesting outfits. No, nothing like that.
I met a man. A sweet, older gent near the fresh flowers. I’d stopped to admire the yellow roses – a favorite of mine, a favorite of my mom’s. I picked a bouquet up to sniff – no fragrance – anymore roses seem to have no fragrance. Or maybe it is me…nothing seems to be as it should anymore. Flowers are not fragrant. Sunrises do not hold the same promise – even my favorite foods don’t bring the same joy (doesn’t stop me from eating them, just doesn’t bring the same joy). Music isn’t as wondrous, colors aren’t as fabulous, nothing seems quite right. I have a good life, with much to be grateful for, but still life seems to be slightly off-kilter. Unbalanced somehow.
The sweet older man shuffled next to me, clutching an identical bouquet.
“Are these yellow?” he asked me, his hands shaky. He held the bouquet closer to my face. Through his thick glasses I see the clouded lenses of cataracts in his eyes.
“Yes, they have a touch of peach blush on the tips of the petals, but they are yellow,” I said. “Yellow roses are my favorite.”
“They are my wife’s, too,” he said. “It’s her birthday.”
“That’s sweet,” I say. I see that tears are forming in his eyes and his thin shoulders begin to shake.
“She’s up in Sarasota National Cemetery,” he sobs.
The caregiver in me takes over and I hug this stranger. I have been there. I’ve had more meltdowns in stores than probably anywhere else. The card aisle…the beer aisle…when I see the peanut M & Ms…flowers, sports paraphernalia, Home Depot – where he would roll his eyes at the plants I would buy that he knew he would have to plant, then weed.
“I lost my husband last year. It’s hard, I know,” I tell him. He hugs me back.
“She’s been gone eight months,” he tells me. “God, I miss her. Sixty-six years we were together. Sixty-six years.” He shakes his head and wipes his eyes.
“You were blessed. We were together nearly 37 years,” I tell him.
Soon we are sharing pictures, and laughing through our tears. He chooses another bouquet of mums and lilies to accompany the roses and we say our goodbyes. I watch him shuffle off…and I put my bouquet of yellow roses in the cart. They have always been my favorite.
I realize, watching him shuffle away, that I don’t have a corner on the grief market…I don’t even have a good-sized corner lot. I was blessed, I am blessed – I still have a fabulous life. I have someone in my life who has also lost his significant other – roughly 10 days after my husband died. Together we have carved out a relationship of companionship, trust and support. We both thought we would spend the rest of our days with someone else but the cards we were dealt dictated otherwise. We never have to explain the pain, the grief, the feelings of loss – the bottomless pit of sorrow that threatened to swallow each of us individually. I have family, and friends, home, and enough. Enough to work toward regaining that balance in this world someday.
And yellow roses to help.