Two skeletons crept out of my closet today, both at the supermarket where I was shopping.
The first one I met was a former boss. I quit working part time for him in 1986 and left his office for the last time feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I hated his attitude toward his employees, though he disguised it as concern and though I was never exploited personally, I heard rumors of uncomfortable situations with female employees behind closed doors (rumors I never confirmed). He was just kind of a creepy guy. I haven't seen him in decades.
I know it was 1986 because I remember thinking, on that beautiful summer day, how lucky I was. I no longer had to deal with him, I was working in a different job that I loved. The kids were doing well and everything in my life was perfect. A week later Gilbert died and the bottom dropped out of my world for a year, as I dealt with the death of the first close friend I had lost and spent a year reading everything I could find on death, dying, near death experiences, etc. (not realizing how much that information would help me 10 years later, when David died).
Interestingly, I was just talking about this guy with someone last week, someone who knew him and still sees him around town from time to time. She told me that he lost his beloved wife last year and I felt sad because I knew they were joined at the hip and I imagined he must be bereft without her.
But there he was pushing his cart past the Chinese food-to-go counter. He looked so old, so stooped and drawn. I greeted him by name and it was obvious he didn't recognize me (heck, nobody recognizes me without hair!) and I reminded him of who I was. By the look and tone of concern as he gently touched my elbow asked me how I was doing, I could see that he felt I probably was dealing with cancer. I hastened to tell him why I was bald.
He did remember me and asked if I was still decorating cakes. I told him I had traded in my decorating bag for a chance to write reviews for the newspaper. I offered my condolences on the death of his wife and then he asked me a question I have never been asked before....and one that made me realize how old I am.
"Is your husband still alive?" he asked
I could hardly wait to get home to tell Walt.
I got my groceries rung up (and mistakenly charged them to my credit card instead of the household debit card) and as I was leading the bagger out to my car, I passed her.
We used to work together, but for the life of me I can't remember where. For all I know, it was working for the guy I had just met, but I don't think it was. All I remember was how much I disliked her. It's the kind of visceral dislike that makes me believe in reincarnation, that somehow we were mortal enemies in a past life and on some level my brain recognizes that. She always thought we were good friends, but she made my skin crawl.
When she quit the job and I didn't have to see her any more, I was relieved.
Years later I joined Weight Watchers and things were going great. I lost somewhere around 80 lbs. I was sticking with my diet, coming to meetings regularly, exercising, etc. Then two things happened. The leader, a born-again Christian started including her religious beliefs in her meetings, which made me uncomfortable. I could have put up with that, but then she joined the group. She was thrilled to see me there and at every meeting she made sure we were sitting together, making the same kind of comments that had made me dislike her years before.
I started skipping meetings and finally I just gave up, first the meetings, then the exercise and finally the diet, because I didn't have that weekly accountability to keep me on track any more.
That I gained most of the weight back isn't her fault, it's mine. I know that. But she certainly made it easier for me to give up. I haven't seen her since, but there she was, staring at me as I walked past. I saw recognition on her face, but I also saw that "cancer" look on her face and she did not say hello, and I pretended I didn't recognize her.
Being bald sometimes has its perks!