Losing it at the Dollar Tree

I don’t normally get emotional at the Dollar Tree. I mean, the prices are great, but I usually don’t get choked up about it.

I was getting into my car, and parked beside me–crooked–was a white Civic. A elderly woman got out. She walked around the car slowly.

She was carrying an oxygen tank with those damn tubes coming out of her nose–the ones that tell everyone “doctors are keeping me alive.”

She was about 5’4″, white haired, hunched over, clearly having trouble, but stubborn, independent, determined, and entirely alert.

She reminded me of my mom.

“Do you need some help?”

“Well….I’m just wondering if I need to pull further in.”

“Nah, you’re fine. A little crooked, but that’s OK.”

“You think so?… Which way are you headed?”

“Nowhere in particular.”

“Could you lend me your arm and walk me to the Dollar Tree?”


“My mom used to have an oxygen tank.”

“Oh. How does she do with it?”

“She passed away a few years ago. She lived alone and I always wondered if people were helping her when they saw she needed it.”

“I live alone, too. I get a lot of help. I go to mass everyday. People help me and they have an elevator.”

“Where do you go to mass?”

“St. Stan’s.”

“….What level are you set at?”

“Pretty high. 3.”

“Oh that’s not so bad. My mom was like an 8, I think. Well…here we are.  Do you want a shopping cart to hold on to while you’re walking?”

‘Yes. They help a lot….Thank you. Have a good year.”

I wondered whose mother this was and whether she will see 2013.

A brief moment–talking to and holding the arm of a woman who reminded me so much of my mom.

It’s the week between Christmas and my birthday. Maybe I’m subconsciously more alert to such things. I’ll bet that had something to do with it.

I might not have noticed her next week–which would have been a shame.

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  • Thanks for sharing this, Pete.

    • peteenns

      Thanks, David.

  • A wonderful story, Pete. Thank you.

  • KrisAnne

    There’s something about the holidays and our birthdays, isn’t there? And Mothers’ Day, too. Mothers’ Day is the only time I visit Mom’s grave because I can’t stand the thought of what is happening to her body over time. I told the hospice nurse, after my mom died, that the thing that bugged me the most was that I didn’t know if I had done all I could to keep her comfortable and at peace during her final days. I couldn’t ask her and she couldn’t tell me. I had to trust blindly that whatever I did helped her in some way, let her know that she wasn’t alone and that she was desperately loved. God, I can’t wait until disease and death are no more.

  • Thanks.

    Ageism is one of a very small number of exclusionary “isms” still acceptable in our culture.

  • Ray Seto

    Thanks Dr. Enns for sharing this. My mom also had an oxygen tank that she carried around with her, though her’s were set pretty low from what I hear. Still, it helped her feel better…. I am glad you helped that lady! 🙂

  • Dan

    “Whatever you did not do for the least of these…”

    How often do we violate this every day?

    • peteenns

      A lot.

  • FredMertz

    This is nice. A few years ago I stumbled on the perfect job. I interview nursing home residents. A few weeks ago I interviewed a 93 year old, silver haired, perpetually smiling woman. She had probably less than 5% hearing left so I scooted a chair up within six inches and had her read my survey questions. When I left her room, she blew me a kiss. Your new friend probably enjoyed the conversation as much as she appreciated the physical assistance.