You know those surveys people do in High-school and Jr. High for yearbooks? “Who will be the most successful in life, the richest, marry the earliest, have incredible reproductive tendencies, etc…?” Well, in college, we did one of these kinds of things in my ward. Of all things, I won the “most likely to become a cantankerous old lady” award. I was not pleased. At all. I believe I even told Mr. Thoughtless what I thought of his idea, thereby proving my cantankerous tendencies. Since brain surgery, I have had multiple opportunities to expand upon this dubious talent.
The time I am thinking of was a week and a half ago at the grocery store. I had just finished physical therapy, and was tired and hungry. I don’t know why I thought I could handle walking around Fred Meyer, but I attempted it. I was still at the stage when I was listing a little to the side as I walked. Maybe this is the reason a blonde teenage girl stopped dead in her tracks and stared at me open-mouthed near a plastic bag depository. What was my response? Why, to stare her down of course. I knew I had been effective when her mother said to me in an unnaturally high-pitched voice, “Hello, how are you doing today?” Was she scared and uncomfortable? Yes. Uncertain about my ability to understand plain English? Possibly. I was quite headachy by that time, and it made me feel wicked. So I walked uneavenly past them, ignoring all attempts at decent human interaction, peeled my plastic bag from the roller, and proceeded to get my nuts— almonds to be precise—from the bin. Unfortunately my left hand was still in the feels-like-I’m-stuck-in-prehistoric-tar phase that week, so it took a really long time to do this, all the while with rude girl awestruck, and her mother sending out nervously anxious vibes like you couldn’t believe. I mean, what am I, a rabid dog?
But the stare was good. It really could be turned into anti-terrorist weaponry by the military. I think such a stare comes when one has gazed across the void of mortality and come back alive. Obviously, my approach to death-defying situations is “Boo!” The sad thing is that I’ve been the recipient of a similar gaze before. When I was in Jr. High, my maternal grandmother, then dying slowly and painfully of ovarian cancer, came to live with us. I know now that she was just bored and also hungry for life, but she would sit in her little grey rocking chair in the living room and just stare at me as I walked past. There were two doorways. No chance to sneak by, no matter how hard I tried. I admit I never tried a gazelle or an army-crawl in these instances. Instead it was slow-slow-slow until the moment of visual contact, and then it was the quickest scoot you ever did see across the wide opening. Poor Grandma! I could have been so much better to her. But I was scared of her slow death in my living room. Her stare was awful, and she never even meant to be mean or wicked about it. No, she never had a cantankerous bone in her whole body, not even at the end.