My Own Oblivion
Something happened the other day that I’m still processing.
Sitting in the car in the parking lot of the store, my husband and I sat scrolling through our phone pictures. We were looking for the image of the part that we needed from this store. The longer we sat there, the more this interesting event unfolded:
I noticed a car that was parked ahead and down the lane from us, and watched as its solo occupant got out of the passenger side of the car. An elderly lady carrying a complacent lap dog began walking across the parking lot toward us. It really seemed that this stranger was coming to see us specifically, but instead she began speaking with the lady next to us, who was standing outside her car. The driver of that car got in and sat down, and so did the lady with the dog.
I smiled. What a great day to meet a friend for lunch.
That’s not what I’m still thinking about.
Next thing I know, this unknown elderly lady with the nice dog is opening our rear passenger door. And although she and I make eye contact and I’m asking her if we can help her, she sits down and closes the door.
Both my husband and I turn around and gently explain that she is in the wrong car, and ask again if we can help her. She is incredibly confused, but not panicked (outwardly, at least). She asks, “Isn’t this my car?”
My husband gently replies, “No, it isn’t. Which car is yours?” When she says she doesn’t know, he tries another way. “What car did you come in?” She still says she doesn’t know.
And then she says, “Oh, there’s my car,” and simply gets out.
But even this is not what I’m still processing.
As we watched this elderly woman carry her dog and amble back across the parking lot, our minds were racing with what we could and should do to assist this person — who clearly needed some help. While we mentally floundered, she got back into the passenger side of the original car that I saw her come out of. And just then, her companion — an elderly gentleman — came out of the store and got into the driver’s side of the car. They exchanged familiar greetings and drove off together. What a great day to go have lunch with your spouse.
Nope. This is still not what is weighing on my mind.
Likely he knows she has these challenges. Maybe he doesn’t. Either way, I believe they probably together chose for her stay in the car because it was the best thing for her. No big deal. I know this, because on a past occasion we have left our 91-year-old father in the car, as he requested. It was too much walking for him to come into the store with us for the quick item. No big deal.
We all tend to think that this is the kindest, safest choice, given the situation. Only not so much.
This woman had just climbed out of a safety zone and into not one, but two different strange cars. And through a miracle found herself back into her own. The man taking care of the woman had absolutely no idea that any of this had happened. From his perspective, she had been nonchalantly sitting in their car the entire time.
That is what haunts me.
Sometimes we don’t realize when someone we love needs us.
Sometimes we ourselves don’t realize when we need someone we love.
There, but for the grace of God, we go.
I don’t know what the right thing to do that day was. I don’t know how to prepare for the possibility of this challenge in my own life, further on down the road. I don’t know why I can’t stop thinking about what happened.
But I do know this: I know how I feel about leaving dad alone in the car. Even if it seems okay.
Maybe that’s all I really need to know right now.