Grocery shopping with Samantha gets easier and easier the older she gets, as with so many other activities, of course. There are certainly times when she is completely uninterested, grumpy and resistant, but more and more she becomes quite helpful. Let me clarify first by saying that I don't do the major grocery shops in our household - Steve does. And he's usually able to get them done on his own, with Samantha at home with either myself or her aide during the week. But there are always a zillion quick-runs to the store for this, that or the other thing (usually milk - one day we're gonna have to buy a cow...). Yesterday I took her to the store after giving her a verbal list of what we needed: milk (see how ready for the cow we are?), juice, bread, coffee and Jello (another post will explain the yummy and horribly bad-for-you Jello cookies
Coming down the juice aisle, Samantha pushing her little green shopper-in-training cart, she passed by an older woman, saying, "Excuse me! Sorry!" as she passed, even with the wide 3-feet between them. Tailing behind, I was explaining to her that she didn't need to apologize if we weren't anywhere near the other customer. The woman's head turned as we passed, a big smile on her face. "How old is she?" she asked. "Six," I responded. "Wow, she's a *big* girl!" Still smiling. "Yes, she certainly *is!*" I said, smiling back, thinking something was up at that point. We paused for a moment at the end of the aisle before proceeding, to give the woman a moment to say what I thought she would say.
"I have a sister."
Ah, no explanation needed.
"Oh! Wow. How old is your sister?" I guess it's not really a weird question, given that life-expectancy of people with Down syndrome gets older every day, and I was truly curious.
"She was 67 when she passed."
Man, that's rough. But wow, that is an impressive age. Really impressive. She went on to say that congenital heart disease was what ultimately ended her life. I gave my condolences, expressed amazement at her having reached such a phenomenal age, she told me how beautiful Samantha is, and we moved on, with tears in my eyes.
These kinds of encounters don't happen often, but when they do, they really make an impression. I don't know the nature of her relationship with her sister. Were they close? Was her sister kept at home? Was she institutionalized? What was she like?
Those aren't my questions to ask, and the encounter was too brief to learn more. But the fact remained that this woman had been touched by her sister, touched by Samantha in some way. A wistful reminder? A regret? Many happy memories? Who knows?
But the impression that brief, poignant encounter left on me will last for some time