It was an ordinary Sunday morning at the grocery store: yoga pants, sneakers and a shopping cart with red race car attached to the front. While it was the equivalent of maneuvering a tractor trailer, it was worth the time saved from having to chase two kids around a crowded store.
I began where I always do—in the produce section. With list in hand, I worked quickly and efficiently, trying to ignore the requests for Goldfish and a new bouncy ball coming from the front of my big rig.
However, my attention was quickly hijacked by an elderly gentleman with a small basket perched on his arm. I observed as he searched the bin with meticulous care, and after lengthy consideration, placed two small potatoes in a plastic bag, bony fingers securing the twist tie. He was dressed in his Sunday best: a pair of black slacks, a button down shirt with coordinating sweater vest, and on his head, a brimmed cap - the kind my grandfather always wore.
Probably just came from church, I mused. And then, my heart skipped a beat.
He’s probably a widow. The poor thing. His wife probably did all the shopping and now that he’s alone, he probably doesn’t know where to begin. I couldn’t help but wonder if one day, my own husband would be able to navigate the grocery store without me. Visions of him bringing home fabric softener instead of dishwasher detergent and a cart full of potato chips, pork rinds and beef jerky prompted me to take out my pen and add men’s multivitamins, orange juice, and protein bars to my shopping list.
My heart ached for the poor old man. It must be hard getting old and losing a spouse, I thought. His life must be so quiet now; so routine and uneventful. I recalled a report I once heard which explained how, when a spouse dies it’s common that the other dies soon after, likely from a broken heart.
I quietly wished that this lovely, lonely man would not suffer the same fate and that somehow, he would find happiness and companionship again.
I snapped back to reality when shouts from the race car indicated that we needed to find “Goldfish now, Mommy!”
It didn’t take long before the lonely man’s image was replaced with my usual mundane thoughts. Do we need more cheese? I better get a box of waffles. We made our way to the checkout, cart overflowing, one kid stuffed under my left arm. I quickly punched my debit card pin number, grabbed the receipt from the pimple-faced checkout boy, and pushed the cart outside.
I unloaded the rig and strapped the kids into their car seats. As I did, I realized that in this busy life we lead, the important things are often forgotten.
After a pensive moment sitting in the driver’s seat, I pulled my cell phone from my purse. I dialed the seven familiar digits.
“Hi honey,” I began. “What do you say we put the kids to bed early tonight and have a quiet dinner, just the two of us?”
“Sounds great,” he replied, the appreciation evident in his voice. “What’s the occasion?”
“Oh, I just want to remind you that I love you,” I said, the vision of the grocery store man still fresh in my mind.
“What’s on the menu?” he asked.
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