There were four of them. Like parrots sitting on a perch, squawking and preening. The three ladies were ruffling their white-feathered heads and the gentleman was sitting watching, touching his own balding crown with a worn and wrinkled claw.
Their hands then crossed simultaneously over the handles of their walking sticks, three of them bright and flowery, one dark and serious, resting until their owners needed their help to finally stand up and move on, away from the bench, away from the bustle of the little city supermarket. A carrier bag sat just as patiently in front of each one. They seemed flat and empty, not bulging and overflowing like mine, which I was filling to the brim before setting them into my trolley, all the time watching these beautiful old people chatter as they sat.
Part of me wanted to cry at their dependence. On what? Their sticks, the minibus driver taking them back to the home, the bench to support their exhausted limbs.
Part of me wanted to smile. At what? Their patience, their acceptance of the wait, their friendship, their hooting laughter.
So I did both, hoping that none of them would look over at me and see the tears dripping down past the corners of my upturned mouth.
I wondered what’s better. Being old, dependent and tired? Or being struck down well before the aches and pains set in?
Dear Destiny-Decider, please gimme the dependence, the tired legs, the feathery hair and the walking stick. I’ll take them all, and will bring them along one day as I laugh with my shopping buddies on our very own bench.