Knowing that an ice storm was headed our direction and that we will soon have treacherous travel conditions, I had a flashback to Miss Opal, our Good News after-school program teacher. Miss Opal was a wizened blue-haired wonder who smelled of a combination of Ben-Gay and Jean Nate. Miss Opal, who could command the felt board Eve to eat the apple with an especially sinister snarl. Miss Opal, who always reminded us to be good samaritans.
I heard Miss Opal's voice in my head as I dialed our elderly Greek neighbors, Helen and Kosmas to see if they needed anything from the grocery.
Helen always says hello suspiciously. Telemarketers seem to prey on the elderly, and add to that the elderly who speak English as a second language, and she's learned to be cautious. When I tell her it's me there is a barrage of joy, "Oh, Christy, Christy [her name for me], why you not at work? Baby sick? You still sick? You don't sound so good. Christy, I'm glad you called me." It's hard to get a word in edgewise. I explained that we had a storm coming. "Oh, no, Christy. It's gonna be a bad storm, huh? It's gonna be ice, huh? This weather. What you gonna do, huh?"
"What you gonna do?" is the philosophy by which Helen and Kosmas live. Their own form of spiritual wisdom. Their own response that, yes, at times, shit happens. Their own acceptance of all that comes in. Their own Tao. What you gonna do, huh?
I explained to Helen, carefully and slowly, that we were going to the grocery to stock up on things. I explained that we were worried about them and wondered if they needed us to pick them up anything. I explained that we didn't know how long the storm would last, but just in case, it might help to have everything we needed for a few days.
Helen listened carefully and said, "Oh, Christy, you're right. I mean, what you gonna do, right? And you, you gonna do something to help. So, yes, I need something from the grocery before the storm comes blowing. You wanna write this down?" I sat, poised with pen in hand to get Helen's list.
"I need one unsalted hairspray. In the can that spray."
Helen was quiet. "You get it, Christy? One unsalted hairspray."
"Okay, Helen. One unscented can of hairspray. Anything else?"
"No. That's good."
We each have our own needs in emergencies. Me? I went to the library yesterday and got a big pile of memoirs to read. And I want to make sure R. picks up some peanut M&M's on the grocery run.
Helen, she's got her hairspray. What you gonna do, really?