I met the woman I want to emulate in about 40 years. She was absolutely wonderfully perfect. She’s 80-something, a cancer survivor, married 63 years, gloriously blunt, uplifting to all she meets and exceedingly joyful. Her name is Margaret. And she made my life exponentially better in just ten minutes.
“Hello, dear. In case you’re wondering why I keep smiling at you, I’m simply admiring your hair. It’s gorgeous! But I’m sure you hear that all the time.”
Over my shoulder, this smaller older woman was smiling brightly. Her own close-cropped hair was mostly silver with traces of gray and dark brown. I loved the salty peppered look on her! Even envied the simplicity of such a style – long, colored, curled hair is NOT easy at any time. I’d seen her earlier – she’d smiled and held back a laugh when I spilled coke down my blouse. Nodded when I took care of it without getting upset. I’d admired her attire – she was older but brave enough to wear a big statement necklace over a crocheted top, very chic and modern. She was delightful just to observe, her strength and positivity exuding from every inch of her small frame, her smile absolutely beautiful in her little face.
I thanked her and told her I’d been complimented a few times on my hair. Smiled. Personally, I think my hair truly is one of my better attributes and I take great care with it. It was nice to get a random compliment from a lady of her caliber. But, this sweet lady wasn’t quite done with me yet.
She leaned over and told me, “One thing I’ve learned in 63 years of marriage. When your man gives you grief, you put him in time out. In the closet. Without his clothes.” And she waited for my reaction.
I lost it. Completely. I laughed and laughed. Heartily. I couldn’t stop. It was just so unexpected and absolutely amazing advice. And I could see her doing it, too! And what had been a stressful, depressing, hard week was suddenly filled with light. That laugh broke through all the crap and reminded me that my day was not my life. The troubles, the stress, and the sadness were not the emotions to hold on to. So I dropped them. And I saw my day in a different light.
We spoke a few minutes, I don’t remember about what exactly, then she smiled, patted my arm and returned to her husband.
After I finished eating, still with random fits of giggles hitting me, I went over to her table. I had to speak with her again.
“I had to tell you, you just turned my whole day and maybe even my month completely around. Thank you.”
She looked me up and down. I could imagine what she saw. Messy auburn curly hair. Tired blue eyes. Long unflattering maxi skirt dress. A coke-spill stain on my chest showing my breast through the white fabric. And she smiled. That beautiful smile that spoke of years of wisdom and trials and overcoming everything that had ever been thrown at her.
“My dear, you need to remember. They don’t make them like you. You walk past that mirror and you take a good look. Every time. You are gorgeous and strong and speak intelligently. There simply aren’t many like you. And you need to know that. You need to remember it. You are an amazing woman. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. Or make you feel like you’re less. Men don’t have a clue. They really don’t. So you find that joy and beauty and strength inside yourself. Don’t look to them because they will disappoint you every time. They won’t live up to your standards and they won’t know what to do with a woman like you. They’re clueless and they’re just along for the ride. You find that strength and beauty in here (touching her heart and then mine) and you don’t let them destroy that. And if they try…you put them in the closet in naked time out.”
Speechless. Absolutely speechless. This was something I expected one of my besties to say to me. Something I expected from a motivational speaker. From the Warrior Goddess tribe. In a random card my favorite cousin might send me. Maybe even from my best gay male friend. It’s not at ALL what I expected from a little 80-something lady I randomly met at lunch in Einstein Brothers Bagels. And it was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. The universe put this amazing lady in my path at precisely the right moment.
I leaned down to hug her. I held her hand with both of mine. I was near tears when I asked her name. And I shared mine. And we talked a bit more. She told me about the little baby (6 days old!) that had just left the restaurant. She had talked to the mother and grandmother; their smiles as they left had told me she had touched them as well. She told me about the girl behind the register. A young woman who had moved here from New York City and was touched by Margaret’s kindness in a place she had found to be “filled with the rudest people she’d ever met!” (This is the midwest…and she’s from NYC! Seems upside down and yet completely true.) She told me that she makes it a point to reach out to women everywhere, “…from beautiful women like you to the weary clerk at a store and everyone in between.”
“We women have to stick together. We have to be strong. We do what needs to be done. Because men are clueless and they literally would not be alive without us.” She indicated her husband, “He has throat cancer and dementia. That’s evidence right there. He literally would not be alive without me. And I’m a cancer survivor and working on getting over chemo now.” She explained that was why she had the short gray hair. “It’s cancer hair, dear.” But she was totally rocking the short pixie look.
I love her. And I told her that. Because she made an impact in my life in just ten minutes. And as I left I looked back. And she said, “I love you. Stay strong. Be happy.” Gave me one more of those beautiful smiles. And I knew, without a doubt, I’d met an angel at lunch. My only regret – not taking her picture. This is the closest I can come to that now – capturing her with my words and pouring out my emotions about the event. Because I want to remember her for as long as I can.
I want to be a Margaret. In 40 years, that’s the kind of legacy I want to be leaving. I want to be the kind of woman who reaches out to those who need a touch, a look, a compliment, a talk, a hug. The kind of woman who lights up a room with her smile. Who speaks her mind. Who takes care with her appearance. Who freely gives her love. The kind of woman who does what needs to be done and helps other women do the same. I want to be the kind of woman that some 40-something looks at and says “I want to be a Terese someday.” Because without a doubt…I want to be a Margaret.
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