Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Unforgotten Words

Two women! ...... of the thousands of women that I have met in my lifetime. Two women that haunt me in the deep of the night, that pop into my memories when least expected, that left a small scar on my image of myself. Two women that I have never met and who passed through my life as small blips, left scars that have never totally healed. Funny, that I should let small snippets of conversation wound me so deeply. I have had big roadblocks that I had to get over and around. Why would I have let two unthinking women do more personal harm then those? Aren’t we humans funny?

The first woman was seated in a restaurant. It was a very nice restaurant and my date had taken me there because he thought we could “have a nice intimate meal and get better acquainted”. As the hostess was escorting us to our seating we approached a table where two women were quietly chatting. As we got closer to the table one of the women raised her eyes and watched us. She could have whispered her words. She could have waited until we had passed. But she did neither. She waited until we were nearly even with her companion’s chair and in a loud voice, meant to be heard, said, “ Oh my goodness, isn’t that sad. She is so pretty and look at the way she walks. She has a limp!”

For the life of me, I have no idea why I let her hurt me so deeply. I let go of my date’s arm and turned around and walked out of the restaurant. My date followed me. He put his arm around me and questioned why I would let such a person interfere with my joy of the night, but I had no answer for him. He wanted to go back and tell her how he felt about her rude outburst. I asked him not to. We eventually went to another restaurant and continued our night together, but there was a sadness that hung over my feelings the rest of the night. Silly? Yes! But there it still is. I often wonder why. I have yet to find the answer.

The second woman was at the foot of a cliff in the Palos Verdes Hills. My son and I were taking a Sunday afternoon ride along the coast when we spotted a group of people gathered at the fence rail of a parking spot. When we got out of the car and joined the people we saw that they were watching dozens of seals frolicking in the surf and sunning themselves on the rocks. It was a beautiful day and many of the people were climbing down the cliff and sitting on the sand to watch the happy sight. My son, as all young boys would, begged to be allowed to go down the cliff. And, he wanted me to join him. So I did! Going down was fun. There was a well-worn path and I grabbed boulders and slipped and slid my way down the cliff. My son and I laughed all the way down. We had a great adventure watching the seals and soaking up the sunshine. It is one of our favorite memories. Except ...................

When the seals tired of their fun and decided to leave for unknown places the people on the beach lined up to climb back up the cliff. My son and I lined up too. When our turn came, my son started climbing. I followed him. I followed three steps up and slid two steps back down. Three steps up and two steps back down. Three steps up and two steps back down. Then the giggles got me. My son turned around, grabbed my arm, and pulled. Now I was making four steps up and two steps back down. I was really pleased. I was making progress. I was laughing hard by this time. I often found laughter in the absurdities that my legs put me through. I was doing fine, or so I thought, before I heard the woman?s voice behind me.

?Get the hell up or get out of the way!?

?What the hell is the matter with her??

?Get her out of the way so the rest of us can get up to the top!?

?I have better things to do then to stand here while she makes a fool of herself.?

?Get the hell out of the way!?

The laughter quickly died in my throat. Two young men that were ahead of my son turned around to see what the noise was about. They watched as the woman screamed and I stalled. They quickly came back down and asked if they could help me. I would normally have smiled a ?no thank you?, but it was obvious that the woman wasn?t going to stop yelling until I was out of her path. So the men each grabbed a half of me and whisked me up the cliff, my feet barely touching the dirt that was beneath them.

As I was thanking the men that had given me their strength the woman walked over and said, ?People like you should know better! Stay where you belong, next time.?

And like that she seared herself into my memory for the rest of my life.

The motivation of the first woman is something that I will never understand. I have had family and friends try to find reasons/excuses for her words. Doesn?t help. Her words still echo in my mind.

The second woman? Twenty-five years later my mother and father had moved to Big Bear. My mother called to tell me about the new friend that she had included on her list of new best friends. My mother was a magnet. People gravitated to her everywhere she went. She was always adding ?new best friends? to her social calendar.

?Who is the latest ?new? friend,? I laughed. And then she told me this story.

She and her new friend had met at a bridge party. My mother happened to mention that she had a daughter suffering with the ?post polio syndrome?. The woman then told her that her daughter had recently become disabled with osteoporosis. They both loved their daughters. They had found a common thread. Then my mother, as my mother was apt to do, told a story about her daughter. This particular story that she was sharing just happened to be about the time that her daughter was climbing down a Palos Verdes cliff to watch the seals.

?Is your daughter a tall, blue eyed, blonde?? Her newly pale faced friend asked.

?Yes,? my mother answered.

?Oh my God! I?m so sorry. I thought she was drunk!?

My mother's new friend was the woman that had yelled at me on the cliff. Isn't it ironic that the woman that scarred my heart would one day become a friend of the woman that was most dear to my heart.

My mother was so pleased with this development. She had found the impetus for the woman?s words. She thought that telling me the story would bring healing to the scar that the woman had created.

Maybe the scar isn?t quite as deep as it once was, but her words still lay heavy.

I don?t want nor need sympathy for the pain that these words have caused me. The words that these two women freely allowed to fill the air taught me a great lesson. I learned that it is easy to let the thought of the moment float from our minds and form into words that are heard and maybe never forgotten.

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