The woman in the checkout aisle is small, white-haired. Her cart is full, mounding with Gatorade, Cheetos, and ice cream sandwiches.
I love ice cream sandwiches.
She is bent at the waist, her joints are as thin as number-two pencils. She is struggling to push her cart.
I offer to unload her buggy. She thanks me and says, “Aren’t you a sweet little Boy Scout?”
A comedian, this lady.
If I am lucky enough to see old age, I will be a comedian.
She’s out of breath, leaning on her basket. If I didn't know any better, I'd guess her back is killing her.
“My grandkids are coming to town this week,” she says. “Wanna make sure they have enough food.”
This explains the Mountain Dew, the Goldfish, and the ice cream sandwiches.
We talk. Grandma is friendly. No. She is perfect. Dressed to the nines, hair fixed. It is nine in the morning, she is bearing pearls and ruby lipstick.
She is the American grandmother. Nineteen hundred and fifty-nine, frozen in time. The kind of woman whose lifelong occupation is
to keep stomachs full while wearing matching blouse and shoes.
When the cashier finishes scanning, the old woman thanks me. I offer to take her groceries to the car. She tries to pay me.
No ma'am. I’d rather sell my soul to Doctor Phil for thirty pieces of silver than take your money.
I roll her cart toward the parking lot. She holds the buggy’s side.
I suggest she grab my arm. She does, and for a moment, I am ten-foot tall and Kevlar.
She has an economy Ford. The trunk is tiny. I have an idea: I ask her to let me follow her home and unload her groceries.
It’s too much. Too personal, too fast. This embarrasses her.
“No thanks,” she says. “I’ll have my grandkids unload when they get here tomorrow. My grandkids, they’re visiting me…