Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Whining Woman and the Elderly Couple - another blog about love.

I was at the hairdresser's yesterday, waging war against my grey. As I and waited for the colorant to work, I half read and half tuned in to conversations between other people in the room.

"Did you have a nice Valentine's day?" I heard a stylist ask.
"No I did not." Her client snapped. "I am still really pissed off". 
"Oh dear." The stylist tried to laugh. "What did he do?"
"It's what he didn't do. He totally forgot. No flowers, no chocolates. No card."
 "But it's all O.K again now? Right?" The stylist sounded hopeful.
 The woman sniffed "Well, let's just say he learnt his lesson. He won't forget again."

 I studied her out of the corner of my eye. She wasn't young. She must have been at least thirty.  Not a great age it's true but definitely old enough to realize that relationships are about more than an over looked Valentine's day and words on a shop bought card. It was February 16th and she was still whining?  It was a miracle that such a high maintenance and unforgiving woman had found anyone to marry her at all. I saw another customer staring, we raised our eyebrows, shook our heads and and turned back to our books.

Six months ago I witnessed a very different scene. Here, in the exact same chair, I had watched someone who could have taught that princess a thing or two about true love.

I had been doing pretty much the same thing that day;  sitting, reading and waiting for the color to soak into my hair. Suddenly there was a commotion at the door. Everyone looked up. One of the stylists jumped forward and ran to the front of the shop.
"June...." she cried. "Hello, June"
"NO! NO!" I heard somebody shout. A frail, elderly lady was clinging to the door frame, refusing to come in.
"Hey, June" the stylist repeated. She spoke slowly and quietly this time, as if addressing a child. "Remember me?"

The owner appeared from somewhere out the back.
"June." She exclaimed and offered out her arm. "It's good to see you again. Come on in. I've got a chair already waiting."

It was impossible not to watch. As you would expect in a hairdressing salon, there are mirrors everywhere. From my seat in a cubicle at the front I could follow the proceedings without needing to turn round. I could see an elderly man now, he was holding June by the elbow and urging her to come inside. After a few minutes, June stopped repeating "no,no, no" and allowed him to help her over the threshold.

"This way, June," the elderly man said. "This way."

The man was probably eighty years old. His dress was formal, almost dapper. But his carefully pressed trousers were scrunched at the waist by his belt, and hung loose around his hips.  It was clear that since the man had bought them, his muscles had begun to disappear. As he stood by the door with the trembling shell of his wife, it must have seemed as if his whole life was wasting away.

The couple shuffled forward. There was fear and confusion in June's eyes. They paused next to my chair.

"We're going to get you looking beautiful." the man told her.

"No!" she shouted. "Don't want to." And she rooted herself to the spot.

Close to, I could see that her slip on skirt was pressed and clean. Her sweater was neatly buttoned and her brown leather sandals were polished to a shine. He had done all that for her, I was certain, and it had probably taken him all day.

  June's hair was the only thing that let her down. Although it was neat and held back by a clip, the white was turning dirty yellow and it was so greasy that a comb had left tracks across the tops and sides of her head.

"Sit here. " The man gently suggested. "She'll wash your hair and make it pretty again."

"NO. NO. NO"

"I can sit next to you."


The rest of us studied our books and magazines; our stylists feigned deep concentration as they snipped and straightened and brushed.

June was crying now, sobbing into her shaking, wrinkled hands. "NO" sob. "NO". sob. "NO"

The old man looked sad and defeated. He turned to the stylist. "Sorry" he mouthed, and slowly shook his head. He turned back to his wife.

"It's OK, June-bug." He whispered. "We'll try again another day."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love and Heartbreak

 On a day when so many people are talking about love, the word heartbreak seems inappropriate and out of place. But love is many things and a heart isn't always broken because love is lost or unrequited. Sometimes love is the very thing that helps us heal.

Yesterday my brother, John, updated his status on Facebook. He wrote that my nephew had gone to bed in tears. Apparently, after spending two days working on a Lego model, Isaac had been re-docking the satellite onto the space shuttle when one false move had resulted in nothing but a pile of plastic bricks.

Comments began to go back and forth. At first things were relatively light hearted. Surely he could do it again?  After all, building the model is half the fun. My daughter was wistful, longing for the days when all there was to worry about was a broken toy. Even my brother made a "Houston we have a problem" type joke. The story was sad and sweet, but Isaac would recover. Tomorrow was another day.

But a few minutes later my brother added another comment. This one completely changed the tone, John wrote (and I quote), "He managed to sob, "I'm more than heartbroken", before finally going to sleep."

At that point, my own heart seemed to twist and break, a lump rose in my throat and my eyes filled up.
For a nine year old boy to declare that he was 'more than heartbroken', meant that he must have been feeling very, very sad. In addition to this, Isaac is not a crying kind of boy. I remember the last time he suffered a loss that had ended in tears, and it was several years ago. He'd been on a roller-coaster and, while traveling at high speed, the wind blew off his favorite hat.....

I pictured him, tears rolling down his face as he watched the Lego spew across the table and the floor. I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do.

I was curious to see what is was that he'd been building and, thinking I might be able to offer John some long distant advice, (don't ask me what),  I looked the model up on line.

It was not a straight forward affair. Rebuilding it was going to take up lots of time. Isaac is an incredibly bright kid (and that's not just a proud Auntie talking), he doesn't give up easily and he is a Lego genius. Watching him build something is like watching a film clip from the 1920's. His hands fly about so fast,  his movements are unreal. But the space-shuttle looked detailed and complicated. I also notice it was targeted for age 16+.....  No wonder Mr. Lego himself had been so upset. Imagine, all that work ending up as nothing but a sorry mess. I wished I was five minutes and not five thousand miles away. I wanted to  race round and and help my brother repair the damage. I wanted to make Isaac feel better. To help heal is broken heart

  John did indeed spend the evening working away.  He loves his son and he is a fantastic dad. Instead of relaxing and preparing for the week ahead, he crouched over what must have been complicated instructions and scrabbled about for pieces in the pile and on the floor. Those things are tricky enough when the parts are neatly packaged up in little bags. Searching for miniscule lights and levers, some of which may have skidded and spun every-which-way across the room, took devotion and a lot of time.

But it ended up being worth it. I contacted John today and he told me that the first thing Isaac asked when he woke up was if the model was repaired. When John told him that it was, Isaac beamed, his face lit up, and he ran downstairs to see.

Sometimes we have to let our children find away to get over heartbreak by themselves, and sometimes we can't do anything practical, just let them know we're there.  But when they are young, there is no better way to make them feel supported and secure than by taking positive steps to heal a broken heart.

 I am happy because Isaac is happy. And I'm happy that, because Isaac is happy, John is happy.

And so, on a day when we are talking and thinking about love and what it means, this sums it up for me........

"Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."
 (Robert Heinlein. 1907 -1988)

Happy Valentines Day.

P.S A huge thank you to John and Isaac for allowing me to share.