A few weeks ago, I was at Old Navy shopping for some new clothes. I had a gift card that had been burning a hole in my wallet for months, so I finally decided to use it.
I was about halfway through the women’s section, carrying a huge pile of clothes over my arm, mindlessly flipping through stacks of folded jeans on a table. I looked up to see a big display sign that said Rockstar Super Skinny Jeans. It stopped me dead in my tracks.
I felt a sudden pang in my heart.
My chest felt like it was caving in.
My eyes began to fill with tears, as I stared off into the distance, unable to see anything in front of me.
My mind went back to the time many years ago that I took my mom shopping with me at Old Navy. It wasn’t really a store she shopped at, but I thought she might like to come along with me anyway. Plus, there was a Boscov’s next door that I could take her to afterward. She loved Boscov’s.
She was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s at the time. She just followed me around the store like a lost child, anxiously waiting for someone to tell her what to do.
I began looking through stacks of the new Rockstar Super Skinny Jeans, which had just come out. My mom started looking through them, as well, and asked me what size I thought she would need. I scoffed at her and told her that these jeans really weren’t for her. She looked embarrassed and I could tell that she felt stupid for even thinking she could wear them.
I immediately regretted my reaction and my attitude toward her. In fact, I’ve regretted that one single interaction with my mom for the last several years. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and do it over again!
When I walked into Old Navy that day a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even thinking about my mom at all. It’s not a store that really reminds me of her. We rarely ever went there together. That day several years ago might have been the only time we ever did. And I haven’t thought about that day in so long. I certainly wasn’t thinking about it when I walked into the store.
But then I saw that sign.
That sign triggered something in me.
That sign zapped me back in time.
That sign instantly made me think about my mom.
That sign made me miss her.
That’s the thing about grief. It shows up when you least expect it.
Just when you think you’ve got your shit together, there you are blubbering over a stack of folded Rockstar Super Skinny Jeans that will most likely never fit you anyway.
There you are staring off into the distance, replaying every second and every word of a conversation that happened so many years ago.
There you are missing her and wishing you could take it all back, wishing you could call her right then and there to tell her you’re sorry.
But you can’t.
You can’t call her. You can’t apologize. You can’t do anything at all. So instead, you suck it up and you pull yourself together to go into the dressing room and try on the jeans that made you cry.
Because after all, that’s grief. It shows up when you least expect it and just like that, it’s gone again.