The grocery store is packed with tourists. And I mean packed. There are hundreds of them.
And I am stuck in a cluster of middle-aged men who wear neon-colored swim trunks and flip flops.
You could say that I’m here against my will. My wife sent me on a very important shopping mission to buy:
And because no household can survive for more than forty-eight hours without salsa or the miraculous properties of Neosporin, here I am.
The middle-aged men in the checkout line are laughing and carrying on. They are wearing Margaritaville T-shirts, and their skin is a deep reddish-tan.
I can spot a Beach-Tourist-Dad tan a mile away. It’s all in the nose region.
Middle-aged male tourists, you see, rarely apply sunscreen to their noses—don’t ask me why. Thus, on a typical beach vacation, a Beach Dad often resembles the captain of Santa’s sled team.
As it happens, it’s a good thing Beach Dad isn’t ACTUALLY steering Santa’s sleigh because Beach Dad also drives like a clinically insane stuntman.
Sometimes, you can see Beach Dad weaving his minivan through heavy traffic while singing along with a Jimmy Buffet greatest hits album, nearly causing ten-car pile ups.
But getting back to the grocery store. There’s a small boy standing in the checkout aisle behind me. He’s pushing a wheelchair with a woman in it. The woman is mid-seventies. She has a cast on her ankle.
There is also a teenage girl with her. The three-person clan is a nice-looking one. And because they are only buying sodas and popsicles, I insist they cut in line.
The boy wheels the woman ahead of me. The older woman thanks me.
I ask where they’re from.
“Arkansas,” she says. “These are my grandkids. We’re down here for two weeks.”
She tells me that she is still recovering from ankle surgery. Her injury happened a few weeks ago when she was lifting a potted plant on her patio. She tripped over her dog. Her ankle shattered. She fractured a bone in her wrist, too.
After surgery, she almost cancelled this Florida trip—which she has been wanting to take for ten years.
“Almost didn’t come,” she goes on. “I was so disappointed, too, ‘cause I’ve wanted to visit Florida all my life, but never got to before my husband died.”
But her grandkids weren’t about to let her miss the Sunshine State. The teenage girl, Georgia, volunteered to be Granny’s personal chauffeur.
Georgia just got her driver’s license.
Georgia originally planned on taking a vacation with her friends to Charleston instead of Florida, but when her grandmother almost cancelled her trip, she volunteered.
“I love my grandma,” says Georgia. “My friends can wait. I only get one grandma.”
Granny pats Georgia’s hand. “She could be off having fun with her friends, but she’s stuck with boring Granny.”
“You’re not boring,” says Georgia. “I love you.”
“Me, too, Grandma,” says the boy. “I love you.”
Kisses are exchanged. I believe in the human race.
These two kids deserve awards. Especially Georgia, who could be doing teenage things. Instead, she’s spending her week navigating through dangerous Beach Dad traffic.
Georgia tells me: “The people drive bad in this town. One guy cut me off in the parking lot and almost smashed our car.”
I’m not a betting man, but I’ll bet the farm that the man had a sunburned nose.
Granny smiles and says, “Georgia’s the best driver you ever saw. She handled it well. She’s so responsible.”
The boy hugs his sister and says, “I’m proud of you, Georgia.”
She hugs him back.
This is too much affection for one column.
Anyway, our conversation ends. The three-person family pays for their popsicles and Cokes. Before they roll away, I ask Granny if she needs any help to her vehicle.
“No,” she says. “I got my family.”
Family. If there’s anything better in this world, I don’t care to know what it is.
The cashier looks at my two items on the conveyor belt and says, “Is this ALL you came here for today?”
No, ma’am. This isn’t all. I came here to see something beautiful, first hand. And to be reminded of something I often forget: that a person with family has everything.
Except salsa and Neosporin.