Seeing Mah, by Natosha Safo. A guest post.

I read this post over at Guerrilla Aging – Navigating the Third Half of Life and I am reposting it here with the permission of both the author and the blog owner.

Although I’m still in my fifties, I’ve already been introduced to the curbs that are inexplicably higher than they used to be, and the young people who mumble and swallow their words, and the doctors who look like they’re not old enough to drive, and the numbers on watches that have shrunken somehow, and in general living in a world that is spinning so fast I that I can hardly keep up. But I’m still young enough to look at really old people with pity liberally laced with admiration for the way they cope.

This post by Natosha Safo spoke loudly to me. Please let our guest writer know how you like it. 


(For reasons that are none of your GD business) I don’t really cry that much anymore.

Well, I was just at the pharmacy and there was an elderly woman in line, her cane in her shopping cart, leaning on the cart for balance. When she walked up she looked at me, smiled brightly and said, “Hello! How are you today?”

Yes, I love old people, but something about her … I just wanted to call her “Mah” or “Moomah” like I called my mom, Johnnie. I guess she kinda looks like what I imagine Johnnie would look like if she hadn’t died so young.

She gets to the counter finally and while she’s talking to the cashier I determine she has diabetes and maybe Parkinson’s? I can’t take my eyes off of her. After collecting the scripts she was picking up she pulls three or four empty prescriptions out of her bag and asks the cashier if she can fill them yet or is it too early. The cream in the tube, she explains, is for her feet and the tube is so small it doesn’t last very long, is it too early to refill that one?

Then … she bends down, lower than she is already stooped, and wipes tears that escape from her eyes. Oh god. Seriously, the tears come rushing down my own face! I’m thinking, what the hell am I going to do if the answer is no?! I will absolutely LOSE MY SHIT up here in this Walgreen’s pharmacy!

Thankfully the cashier leans over and quickly says, “Its alright, yes, you can get this one refilled now.” I quickly dig in my bag for a Kleenex and wipe the tears off of my face before “Mah” turns around and sees me. I still watch her though. The cashier rings up all of her purchases and “Mah” needs $0.93 more. She reaches into her bag, pulls out a Ziplock full of change and with a shaky hand passes it to the cashier to count out.

I jump up while the cashier’s back is turned and offer a single dollar, tell her to keep her change, I know what its like when you have to dig into the coin bag. Go ahead and hold on to that for when you might need it next. She looks up at me and is genuinely surprised and taken aback. I put my hand on her back and say, Merry Christmas before I sit back down in the waiting area. She wishes me the same and gathers her purchases and goes on her way.

I hold it together long enough to pay for my stuff, follow her in the parking lot sneakily to make sure she isn’t mugged or anything, see that she is safely in the car with whoever was driving her, and then cry the whole drive home.

And I’m still crying.

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9 Responses

  1. Maxine D says:

    Tears here too…………. oh we can be so cruel to our elderly with minimal support, both financially and morally. What courage ‘Mah’ exhibits, what compassion Natosha shows, and courage too to share the whole incident.

    Blessings and prayers

    • toshalot says:

      Thank you, Maxine for your kind words. I was overwhelmed with getting so emotional that night, but having two bloggers share the story and reading others’ reactions has helped me realize that the feelings I had in wanting to connect with this woman were not odd or strange at all.

  2. Lisa says:

    Well, I cry way to easily and that kind of situation would get to me. The other day I saw a mother and daughter grocery shopping with a grandaughter. The mother was obviously showing signs of dementia and the daughter was fussing at her in exasperation. I so wanyted to pull that woman aside and remind her that she was teaching the grandaughter how to treat her when she is older. I so wanted to tell her I’d give anything to shop one more time with my mom, even if it was only for groceries. I paid for my food with tears in my eyes. The cashier said she understood. It hurt so bad to see that I cried all the way home.

    • toshalot says:

      Lisa, that would totally break me down too, I imagine. I never had grandparents and didn’t get to experience my own parents growing old and I feel like I really really missed out on something special. Its comforting to hear that the cashier expressed her understanding.

  3. Well, I’m 82 and my beloved husband is 90. It seems as if it is harder to do things than it used to be, but we are immensely grateful to be alive and together. We find it heartwarming when people are kind and patient and we have discovered they most often are. It’s just that there is no way they can have a clue what it is like to be us and it would be very affirming if they could. I’m sure my metastatic friends feel very much the same. At least know that I love you and would make it better if I could.

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