I was in the supermarket browsing magazines and hastily deciding that I had already bought every Christmas themed issue, the publishers had dreamed up, I started to push my trolley down the aisle, making a shopping list as I went. And then there they were, the oldest couple in the whole wide world. Hunched and muddled and gripping each others hands as they dithered over the purchase of a copy of Woman’s Own.
“Joan, she might have it…”
“Well if she has she can swap it with someone on the ward can’t she? It will pass an hour or two won’t it?”
” She might not have her specs with her…”
” Ooh Jimmy, that reminds me, we need to pick up our specs…”
And on and on it went. And because I couldn’t squeeze past them, I stood quietly and waited. And waited. And learnt that Jimmy wasn’t sure if Joan was up to the journey to the hospital, and he was worried about having to eat a late dinner if she was. And that neither of them liked Carol Vorderman. And all the time he held her hand and kept one arm in the small of her back, while I watched and eavesdropped and decided they must be in their nineties.
And then he looked up and saw me, his rheumy, twinkly eyes fixing on me, as he apologised for getting in my way.
“Oh don’t worry, I’ve got all the time in the world“, I told him. And I meant it, for there was nowhere else I had to be, no-one waiting for me. No-one expecting anything at all.
But instead of smiling and letting me past, he grabbed my hand in his paper one and said “Oh no you haven’t! Joan tell her, she says she’s got all the time in the world, but she hasn’t has she?”
And Joan looked at me wisely, and shook her head, no, she said, you haven’t…
And I tried to explain an entire day free of obligation and all the time Jimmy held my hand and Joan gripped my arm, and they talked in unison and said ooooh no, you’ve got things to do! And I said no, and they said yes, that time was whipping on and wouldn’t slow down until I got to their age, when days were as long as years but they were to old to get on with all the things they should have been doing at my age. And that there wasn’t all the time in the world at all, that I needed to get on, to not waste a single moment waiting around for doddery old fools like them when I could be out there doing and dreaming and hugging my babies. And my Mum. And seeing all the wonderful things life still had to offer.
So there we were, me and Jimmy and Joan. Now blocking the aisle in a cosy, unexpected, awkward hug. In Asda. Me and my old people. For weren’t Jimmy and Joan, my grandparents names? And maybe in another time and place, had life been kinder, less difficult, less exhausting, it might have been them telling me to get my bottom into gear. To stop waiting and get on with it…
It might have been them…
P.S The wonderful images in this post are part of a project by photographer Jan Langer called Faces of Century…