I have the power of attorney for an 88-year-old, never married woman who is confined to bed in a local nursing home. She has been a part of our church family for all of the 13.5 years that I have pastored at Westside Bible Church. Amongst my duties as POA (an acronym not far from POW for a reason) is shopping for personal items that she needs brought to the home.
That is how I came to be in the Shoppers Drug Mart this afternoon on a quest of senior proportions. It was my job to hunt down a bottle of Estee Lauder “Youth Dew” perfume, a mirror small enough to see one’s chin but not large enough to see one’s face, and some large nail clippers.
I was not feeling particularly enthusiastic about doing this shopping because I knew it was going to take me into parts of the store where I was going to have to ask for help. I have never been good at finding specific things in stores and as I get older (I am 44) I can see I’m getting even worse at item specific browsing.
So in full acknowledgement of my weakness I made a beeline to the perfume department and asked the perfume lady outright if they had the particular brand I was seeking. After a long look at every label on every shelf she broke the news to me that they did not. I thanked her and got out of there.
Next on my mental list: the compact mirror. I began to wander aisle after aisle in the hopes that its shiny nature would catch my eye and I would not need to painfully ask for help again. Once I started getting into bleaches and detergents I knew I had gone too far and headed back in the other direction. Along my path of repentance I encountered the perfume lady again. From the look on her face it was clear I was projecting a sad demeanor of lostness as she looked at me with an “ahh, did you wander away from home and get stuck out in the cold rain without your mommy, can I help you (again)?” look.
“I’m looking for a small mirror,” I said in the best “I’m OK” voice I could muster. She led me off to the makeup section (which is why I was never going to find a mirror on my own) and pointed to a few on display so I was sure not to miss them. I picked up a small a mirror, made sure I could see only my goatee in it, and hightailed it to a more male-friendly part of the store. Surely nail clippers would be near something more comfortable like tooth brushes, wart remover, or body waxing even.
Alas, my browsing blindness quickly kicked in again and I returned to walking aisles aimlessly as before, but now with the added pressure of not running into the perfume lady again. Once again kitchen cleaners made me realize I was way off track so I retreated to the end of a row a few aisles back. As I stood there listening for the “Here we are!” cry of nail clippers somewhere in the store, I looked around and over to the pharmacy counter where I saw a young woman my eldest daughter’s age working. I thought about asking her where the nail clippers were but then I wondered if she might think I was dumb asking a pharmacy person for directions to something that was neither taken internally nor applied topically.
I continued to stand there, undoubtedly looking lost and alone, as I pondered the vocational appropriateness of asking that girl for help. I glanced over at her thinking that maybe she would offer help and save me the embarrassment of doing so. At that very moment she did look over at me and gave me back a very subtle “I understand your embarrassment” look before returning to the work she was doing. Unexpectedly shunned, I turned and stared blankly at the shelves in front of me.
I was standing in front of the condom display.
Not wanting to appear lost suddenly didn’t seem like the worst impression I could leave on the employees of the store so I went to the pharmacy girl and very clearly stated, “For the life of me I can’t find nail clippers.” She was very kind, pretended to believe me and pointed me back across the store . . . . where the perfume lady saw me.
The rest you know.
Pastor Tim Davis
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UPDATE: Maisie Carr passed away at age 90 in March of 2012. Her mind stayed sharp right up to the end, which left me with some funny details to discover and sort out as her executor. Finding her perfume, mirror and nail clippers when I packed up her room brought a chuckle to my heart as I remembered the other many quests she sent me on as her pastor and eventually as her friend. I miss her, but am glad to know she's enjoying heaven. You can watch her funeral and a wonderful ash scattering at http://asleepinchrist.org/c/annie-maisie-josephine-mary-carr-december-8-1921-march-21-2012