|The fishing town of Scituate remembers those lost at sea.|
Why can’t they use coins like everyone else? I studied the last obstacle that stood between me and clean clothes; a Laundromat debit card machine.
We were in Scituate, Massachusetts. The boat had barely come to a stop before I went off to the town’s waterfront Laundromat. There I stood having survived hundreds of miles at sea, only to be stumped by a vending machine. I wondered if anyone else noticed.
“Here, take my card. It only has 20 cents left on it, but it will save you the card initiation fee.”
The one who noticed my dilemma smiled as she handed me her card. Suddenly I felt salty, unkempt, and underdressed. She was nothing less than elegant; tall, tan, blonde, wearing a graceful pantsuit that showed off her willowy figure. In her late sixties, I’m sure she had been a cover girl model at some point in her life. Maybe even still.
I dumped my laundry in machines and sat down to read. Before long she was back.
“Are you vacationing here?” I asked. (That seemed better than saying, “People like you just don’t hang out at Laundromats.”)
“No, I’ve lived here by the sea since I married 52-years ago. I love it here.” She reached out her hand. “I’m Anne.”
I brushed powder detergent off my hand, “I’m Leslie.”
Anne wasn’t bothered by the detergent on my hands. That impressed me even more. We talked. And I listened.
She told me about her husband who had been healthy and strong his whole life. Recently things changed. Cancer. Emphysema. Heart problems. She smiled, love twinkled in her eyes as she imitated his criticism of their kids who “couldn’t mow the lawn or trim the hedges the right way.”
She sighed. “Life. It’s all fun and games.” The twinkle in her eyes gone.
I told her about my accident and explained the grief I experienced because I could no longer do the things I loved to do.
“I would guess you husband is grieving. He misses all he used to do outside. His social life is limited to medical appointments. He’s had a lot of loss.”
Anne’s eyes grew wide. “I never even thought of that, you are exactly right!” She became quiet and seemed to ponder what this meant.
Grief is a part of the journey for those of us with chronic pain.
It’s also a part of illness.
And it comes with the broken parts of our lives.
The lost dreams. Lost relationships. Lost abilities.
Words you never expected your child to say. Or never being able to have a child. Or being violated as a child.
A spouse who died too soon. Words that were said too late. Or words never uttered.
There are so many places in our hearts that hide grief.
Sometimes it helps to remember that. Even at the Laundromat.