Diamond-studded. Shiny. Oversized. Perfect for what I have in mind.
It’s not a tennis bracelet or a jaw-dropping necklace. It’s a cement saw. Those shiny blades drip with diamonds so they’re extra sharp, and I have concrete to cut. I shove images of jewelry out of my head and heave the saw onto my cart next to powdered chalk and a new level.
My husband and I are entrepreneurs, and we’ve tried everything from tech start-ups to coin-operated laundromats. Every time our efforts net a little profit, we put the proceeds into real estate, mostly fixers, and now we have rental properties and the overwhelming maintenance that comes with them.
Today’s challenge is to hack out a really ugly patio, develop a more artful design, and prepare for the arrival of a concrete truck in the coming days. All of it is hard work — mentally, financially and physically.
As I pulled my heavy cart through a big box hardware store, I remembered different shopping experiences decades ago. Back when I was younger, I’d wear a cute outfit for my shopping excursions, and strong young men would always help by loading my cart. Then, they’d load my truck. I came to expect outstanding customer service as my due.
One time I was shopping with my aunt Rosemary, and she made an offhand remark that she missed the days when she got special help, too. She had forgotten how kind the world is to people during the blossom of life. I didn’t get it. I thought everyone was treated pretty much the same.
Now that my 50th birthday is just another memory, I understand what my aunt was talking about. When I buy hardware these days, I load my cart myself. Then I load my truck. Occasionally, I can play the “middle-aged woman card” and get someone to help, but if a 20-year-old hottie prances by, I know I’ll be taking my place at the back of the line. It’s faster and easier just to do it myself.
Help is at hand
After my final chemo session, the last day of 16 weeks of hard-core treatment before surgery and radiation, my husband and I decided to celebrate with new patio furniture. On our four-hour drive home, we stopped at a big box store, picked out the set we wanted, and then saw how many boxes we’d have to load, tie down, and haul. Gary went to get our truck, but exhaustion hit me, and I sat down to rest on a display lounger.
My head on a fluffy cushion, I reminisced about the good old days when guys leaped to open my doors or carry my boxes. Then my wig started to itch. I was tired and beyond caring what I looked like.
Putting aside my feelings of self-consciousness, I stuffed my wig into my oversized bag and closed my eyes. A minute later, just as Gary was returning with the truck, the sales guy arrived with a palette load of boxes He looked at my bald head, looked at Gary’s worn out face, and looked at the load. “How about if I give you a hand with this?” he said.
We were at a do-it-yourself wholesaler, and we had no expectation of service. But seeing our situation, suddenly a team of employees came to help. Before we knew it, we were we were loaded up, tied down, and back on the road. While they loaded our truck, one of the guys told me about how his mom battled breast cancer. Another said that his aunt was going through it now. All of them offered heartfelt wishes for my recovery.
As we drove home, chemo behind me, new patio furniture before me, I thought about how nice it was to get that help. Back in my 20s, I thought the world rolled out the red carpet for everyone. Now that I know it doesn’t, I have a deeper appreciation for when people do step up with spontaneous kindness.
With chemo over with, I really am strong enough to load my own truck, and I do so with gratitude. When I see a handsome young man wheeling a cart of hardware for a 20-something lady, I smile. God willing, both of them will be old one day, too, and when that day comes, I hope that, like me, they’ll recognize there’s beauty in every season of life.
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