Yesterday was the day we were to get BJ our cat spayed. I had her at the vet right before they opened the doors. I noticed a little old lady standing at the door so I unloaded BJ in her carrier and decided to wait with this lady.
As I walked towards the porch, she noticed me and said “I am here first because I am on my way to Ft Rucker (a military base about 20 miles away) and I just need heartworm medication for my dog” in a thick german accent.
Her accent got my full attention when her appearance had already peaked my curiosity. She was quite elderly, a little bent, heavily wrinkled with thin white hair. She was adorable!
“Oh, I see you have a cat – a black cat – I used to have a black cat. I called her Tarbaby – we lived up north and I could get by with it there” she began telling me.
1971 – I am laying in a hospital bed, my nine year old body wracked in pain. I was afraid, hurting, lonely. In between hallucinations from the opium doses, the other painkillers kept me in somewhat of a fog while the doctors performed test after test to try to discover why my body was shutting down. It was not until the doctors from Mayo arrived on the scene several months later that they discovered the tumor on my kidney and began working towards healing me. In the meantime, I was a little girl away from my family, in a place that was cold and seemingly sterile.
My first “roommate” was a young black teenager. Her family filled the room to capacity all hours of the day and night where my family was taxed with work and other children to care for or the flu season prevented them from visiting for fear of infecting me. Her Uncle had a grey beard and mustache and his favorite place to sit was at the foot of my bed.
I don’t remember if the movie “Song of the South” came out before or after I knew this uncle but he was the one who sat there day in and day out telling me story after story in a most animated fashion of a world I had never visited. His tellings made me giggle and forget the loneliness. HE was the one who first told me the story of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and the Tarbaby. I never thought of it as a racist term. I have such endearing memories of that story and that man whose name I still don’t remember. When my roommate was well, I cried for two days because her family left with her and I loved having them around.
Coming back to now but relishing the memory she already sparked…
“I also had a black named Sheba” she went on to tell me.
“Oh, this is BJ, her name was Black Jack but then we discovered she was Black Jackee and our daughter didn’t like that, so she’s simply BJ” I told her.
“I came here early to be first in line. You understand. I am moving to Florida and traveling and I need heartworm medications for my dog. I had him some but something happened to it so I need to get some more” she continued.
“Yes,” I responded “it’s important that you….”
“So I am going to be first so that I can get his medications, then we are going to Ft. Rucker” she interrupted.
As I was analyzing the tone of our conversation, the Office Manager approached and unlocked the door.
“I was here first and this nice young lady is going to wait on me because I need heartworm medications for my dog” she began as the Manager opened the door.
“Oh yes” I said “she has misplaced her dog’s meds and she is on her way out of town. I have no hurry, BJ and I can wait here while you assist her” I told the Manager wanting to clarify that I understood the frailty of the situation evolving.
“Well,” the manager said “How big is your do…..”
“You see, I bought the medication but I have misplaced it” she continued
“Yes Ma’am” the manager tried to insert “I must know how big your dog is before…” and I could see the light coming on. The Manager was realizing there could be a hearing situation impeding the communication process.
“HOW BIG IS YOUR DOG….I NEED TO KNOW SO…” she began
“Oh, I can see you are trying to talk loudly, it’s no use…I’m completely deaf but I just want the heartworm medications for my dog because I can’t find the stuff I bought previously” our lady continued now clearly stating what had already become obvious to all parties in the room.
At this point, I had to hide my giggles. You see…I do two things very well – talk and watch people. I prefer the first, then I find the second equally rewarding at times.
The Office Manager gave the “wait right here” hand signal and went into the storeroom, returning with two boxes. One of the boxes was brown, the other green.
“I really do not know why you are holding two different boxes, I only need one kind for my dog” our lady said.
Frustrated the Office Manager quietly responded “well, I was thinking you would see that one is for small dogs and one is for large dogs and point to the right one” but she didn’t get very far with it before it all began again.
“I need to be first in line….” And the story continued.
In walks Dr. Jones – our town veterinarian ..
“OH, Dr. Jones!” our lady said. “I need heartworm medication for my dog,” and she began all over again explaining to Dr. Jones.
This indicated to all in the room that Dr. Jones knew this lady and the Office Manager quickly asked him “What is her name?”
“It’s Betch, Bosch, Baush…something like that” and they began rifling through the index files attempting to find whatever information they may have had stored for the lady’s dogs, desperately now needing to know the size of the dog.
“You know, he’s just a little dog but he needs his medication” she said – and there it was! BINGO! They knew the size and began getting the correct meds together for her.
Just as quickly it all began again “I was here first and I need..” and off they went.
Dr. Jones quickly retrieved ONE YEAR’S WORTH of the medications as the lady had asked at the same time realizing the Office Manager had located the correct file card. Indeed, the lady had only two days before purchased another year’s worth of medication.
“I see you already bought some but you said you misplaced…if you find it, it will still be good…” he was telling her.
“I already bought some but I can’t find it. When I find it, I will bring it back.” She interrupted.
“You see…there are laws…it’s prescription…we can’t take it ba…..” he was attempting to explain to her.
“I will just bring it back if I find it, I won’t need it all”…she interrupted again.
“Very well” he surrendered “just bring it back, we can figure out something” he said, this time knowing she hadn’t a clue he was even talking.
He then noticed me, in my full state of entertainment and proceeded to get BJ moved to the back and explain to me when I could return. Shucks! I had to leave and missed the ending but I was hearing them trying to figure out how to explain the price to her as I left. They had written it down but she kept asking them just the same. I am sure they got it all worked out –I just missed HOW they did it.
So…last night I remembered this encounter and wondered. We go to school 12 or more years – at least most of us do. They teach us important stuff like diagramming sentences, long division, who shot Abe Lincoln – you know – stuff we will use the entire rest of our lives. We know that if we make it through those years when all that stuff matters, we will enter into the years when we can no longer hear or see but they don’t teach us about that.
What if….just what if…they taught us brail and sign language? Then, as we reach our elder years or encounter those who have, we can immediately merge our communications to the level at which we are not drawing, shouting, waving our arms but are actually using the secondary language we learned in school? It’s only a thought.
It would probably be just as fun to watch the conversation as it is to hear it.
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