Thursday, June 4, 2015

Health food stores and how I connected with the dying

I am no stranger to “health food stores” as I call them. Growing up in inwood around 1970 we used to go to a little shop on Broadway just north or south of 207th street, I can’t remember exactly. My mother would take me in there to pick up a few items, brewers yeast, sprouts and maybe a tiger’s milk bar. I believed it was made from the milk that came from Tigers so I had to brace myself before biting. The place had a really specific “healthy” smell that was not my favorite.

I would frequent those types of joints my whole life to come. I became a vegetarian in high school and spent a lot of time in those spots. I could list a million of them that have come and gone in nyc. Each one had a story to go with it. The one I will write about was on the east side of 7th avenue near St Vincents around 12th street. I have no idea of the name anymore. Not Integral, which was a couple of blocks away. I used to get protein shakes there on a regular basis. I was the type of vegetarian that tried to be savvy but I wound up eating a lot of carbs and sugars and the fruity shake was at least a step in the right direction.

One day the young hippy girl that worked there took interest in me the young lonely vegetarian who did not eat well. She very caringly told me that the shakes were not meant to be a meal and that I needed a whole grain to go with them. She gave me a free grainy roll and a small handmade pamphlet with spiritual arty writing. The booklet was a strip of pale pink or green paper folded into several pages that were maybe 3 inches by 2. The pages had the corners trimmed off so they were less rectangular and more oval-ish and they said things like “My god serves mindfulness” I read it a million times trying to digest the airy nuggets that were beyond me. I gave the booklet to my boyfriend’s mother when she was getting ready to pass away. ( I told her that it helped me and she told me it helped her too.

Then a decade later when my father was dying in St Vincents I wound up there in that same store getting some food to get me through the long day. I was on line to get a smoothie when the woman behind the counter said they were closing. I blurted out that my father was dying at St Vincent’s and she made me my drink. Another woman on line, a stranger, told me to keep my hand on my heart when I went back and to talk to him. To breath and hold his hand and hold my heart and talk. And I did. Her words guided me through the event, the help I needed and forgot to ask for, didn’t even know I could ask for. I said everything I needed to to him that day. Held his hand till he died and had easy closure for the most difficult relationship.

The store is long gone just like my father and my boyfriend’s mother. All things must pass, yes? I always like to add “start by admitting from cradle to grave, it isn’t that long a stay”, and I write that to remind myself. I still find myself in those kind of joints all the time. Life dances on.

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