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 tomorrow.”
We talk more. From what I can tell, her husband died a few years ago. She’s adjusting to life on her own, and it doesn’t suit her. There’s no reason it should.
He had pancreatic cancer. He fought like hell for a long time. He lost.
She doesn’t say it, but I know she eats suppers by herself, watches television alone, and probably sleeps odd hours.
She finishes our conversation by tapping her watch. “Gotta go,” she says. “Have a lot to do.”
But of course.
After all, she’s a busy woman. She probably has a mile-long checklist to complete before tomorrow. And I’m glad for her.
Tomorrow, her world will light up like a Christmas tree. Supper will be a main event. Tummies will be full. Her house will be alive with youth—kids will eat too many ice cream sandwiches.
The day will belong to her. So will the week. Granny will once again be what the Good Lord made her to be. Happy.
Tomorrow, her grandkids are coming to town.
Debbie Phillips Hughett - January 24, 2019 7:00 am
Howard Yeager - January 24, 2019 7:36 am
What the grandkids got has changed over the years. For me it was fried apple pies made with homegrown dried apples!! And I can still taste em!!
Rebecca McArthur Lee - January 24, 2019 10:09 am
Grandchildren light up our world. Any child, for that matter. Bet she has a pound cake and their favorite cookies waiting on the buffet, too! Thanks for the memories, Sean. Keep writing because …You. Touch. Lives.
Jan - January 24, 2019 11:46 am
We all need a purpose in life! For mothers and grandmothers, feeding their families is a way of sharing love! Thank you Sean for sharing the lives and stories of the wonderful people you meet.
Kerry - January 24, 2019 11:56 am
My grandmother (“Mymama”) lived in Florence AL, and always had ice cream for us, which I don’t think she ever bought except when we were coming. She also made the best creamed corn, fried okra and pork chops I’ve ever had. She’d make boiled okra, too, which I likened to trying to eat a slug, back then. I was always thrilled when we’d come home with her homemade fig, pear, peach, plum preserves or muscadine jelly. ? I miss her hugs and sweet attitude. And her cooking.
Patty Dickson - January 24, 2019 12:06 pm
I was touched by this article because I am in her shoes now. My husband died last year, so I am living Aline with two old digs. My children live 1,000 miles away but I do live it when they come to town. I live the way you saw her, not as pathetic but vital and lovely. Thank you for caring.
Janie F. - January 24, 2019 12:17 pm
My Granny Temples was short and round.she had these soft arms that made you feel like you were safe no matter what when she held you. She was my safe port in the storms of life. Every child deserves a sweet granny.
Thank you for this story Sean and for helping this dear lady. She’s a treasure and so are you!
Brenda - January 24, 2019 12:29 pm
thank you for such a feel good story. I can relate, being a white haired grandmaw, with the same grocery list.
Jess in Athens, GA - January 24, 2019 12:38 pm
Good one, Sean. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a Boy Scout when the occasion arises….like helping the little ol’ grandma. Good on you. You’re a good man….better than most nowadays.
Michael - January 24, 2019 12:39 pm
I am ill at easy when I read statements like, “The kind of woman whose lifelong occupation is to keep stomachs full while wearing matching blouse and shoes.” I doubt very much that feeding and taking care of her husband were the only things that occupied her. That fact that she likes to look nice when she leaves the house only means she cares about her appearance. It does not mean she did the cooking and cleaning in those clothes like Donna Reed. Of course she is excited to have her grandchildren come and visit but they are not her only purpose in life. I suspect she will be just as excited to send them back home when their visit is over. The portrait you painted of her is very unflattering. Believe it or not women do not aspire to be seen as someone’s wife and mother/grandmother. You seem to say this when you write: “Granny will *once again* be what the Good Lord made her to be. Happy.” (Emphasis added) This caricature you’ve created after a few minutes of conversation betrays the biases you have about age and sex/gender; and, it is disappointing. These two statements I have quoted indicate that you believe her life has no purpose with her husband gone and the children moved out. The next time you consider writing this sort of article, take a moment to consider whether you would say these same things if it were a grandfather doing the shopping.
theholtgirls - January 24, 2019 3:15 pm
Michael, you do not speak for me, but Sean does. Leave us alone, please? I do aspire to be seen as someone’s wife and mother and grandmother.
Oh, sure, I *can* kill my own snakes, but I don’t want to have to. I would however, speaking of snakes, have you unload the ice cream sandwiches I left in the car over night.
JOEL - January 24, 2019 5:26 pm
Michael, you are preaching to the wrong congregation. Go find one that suits you better. Thanks
Michael - January 25, 2019 10:36 am
No, from the responses I have received, I think this is group that needs to hear it. Not everyone will affirm your narrative. Respectful disagreement is how we learn about other perspectives and broaden our own. Telling people to go away is rude and inhospitable.
Jim McConnell - January 24, 2019 9:17 pm
From reading your comment, Michael, I bet you’re disappointed a lot with life.
Jack Darnell - January 24, 2019 11:32 pm
WOW, Son you need a few more years on ya to preach about age. Until then t’would be good to listen some. But boys will be boys I guess. Hang in there it was nice of you to take the time though! Ol’ Sean is pretty much on target. At 80, he describes my peers pretty well. juat sayin’. But you d’man Mike I hope you live to see life GOOD in the rear view mirror. 😉
Michael - January 25, 2019 10:42 am
You do not know how old I am. I am not 80 but I am not a boy either. At 50, I think I have enough life experience to speak with some authority—your ageist comment not withstanding.
Susan - January 25, 2019 5:43 am
I appreciate your comments. If you step back a bit I think you will see that all Sean is saying is that caring for the grandchildren fills a void for this woman. Her husband (probably her best friend) is gone and she is most likely lonely. God made us all to be happy. Why should she be any less? Feeding and taking care of others is a love language all on its own and it is never the only thing someone does.
I can promise you the description of a grandfather would be equally laden with what you are mistakenly characterizing as biases. Sean is describing a woman of a certain age who is from the south and the description is spot on for a whole bunch of us! Of course there is more to her! She is dressed to the nines especially if she is leaving the house, because that was what she was taught. Think of it as a southern woman’s eleventh commandment. Thou shalt ONLY depart from home in full battle dress; impeccably groomed and coiffed.
What you are touching on but not really seeing is that his description is a facet, one side of a fine jewel discovered over ten minutes together at a grocery store. There are many more sides to this woman, each with its own vantage point and description but this is the side he saw that morning. He knows there is more and I suspect he was attempting to find out more when he asked to let him to unload the groceries at her house!
Thank you for sharing! And thank you Sean for a great post!!
Janet Mary Lee - January 25, 2019 6:18 pm
Michael, My grandmother maybe did not wear her pearls to clean, but I assure you she wore a dress she could wear to church to clean. That is what grandma’s wore back then in my memories. I never saw her in a pair of pants. Women did not wear them back then. I am not sure they even made them. (you wore boy’s or men’s for farming maybe.) We that love Sean and his memories and experiences can be mighty protective of him. We love him as much as we do our own memories. Perhaps sharing the different facts you see would be better than trying to change someone’s own past. I know many grandmothers who would love to be in that grandma’s shoes..(I remember mine wore those big clunky orthopedic shoes with her dresses and hose, every day, even to clean, yep, Donna Reed like but poorer.) Today many of them are forgotten by children now who have lots of other obligations due to our present day hurried lives. I assure you this is no isolated instance anymore. Instead share yours without begrudging us ours…and you would lose that bet on negative comments…
Ella Billions - February 23, 2019 2:00 pm
Sorry, Michael. You are in the wrong place, at the wrong time, criticizing the wrong writer. Go away and spread your darkness somewhere else. Obviously you have an ax to grind, but not here. We love Sean and pert’ near everything he writes. As an old lady myself, I don’t appreciate you trying to put words in my mouth. You don’t know as much as you think you do about life.
Pam Bell Bagley - February 23, 2019 2:23 pm
What a negative soul! You’ve come to some crazy conclusions.
Debbie Shiflett - February 23, 2019 2:29 pm
Micharl, Bless your heart. I can’t help but wonder if you were blessed to have a Granny in your life. I did. She was a lot like the previous woman in Sean’s story. I remember her, dressing, to go to town. I also remember her face lighting up when we grandkids visited! I’m a Granny now to 6 wonderful boys and girls all almost grown and I only buy I’ve cream when I know they are coming to visit. Yep, grandkids visits make for “happy” days!
Sylvia - February 23, 2019 2:42 pm
I am a GrandMother & you Sir are full of it! Nothing would brighten my life more than a Grandchild visiting.
I would have to substitute the goodies also since I don’t bake or cook much anymore. It brings back feelings of how it once was before everyone grew up & move away. Sean you are spot on so ignore this old coot. He must need attention but not the right way to get it! Loving ? Sean❣️
Sheila - January 24, 2019 1:07 pm
I’m a grandma. I’m too young to be one, but I am ?. 2 grandsons, 6 & 2 and they are precious. I raised to girls. Boys are soooo different. My first couldn’t say grandma when he started talking so he called me Mamu. I’m still Mamu and sort of like it, although I didn’t at first. Sounded too much like Shamu. Anyway, I love feeding my kids. What is it about us moms and Mamus?
Phillip Saunders - January 24, 2019 1:15 pm
Great story about a fine lady and a very good boy scout. She will have as much fun as the grandkids in spite of her physical frailties. Some of our grandkids from GA are invading this weekend to join forces with those who live near us. Together they will easily overrun our perimeter. We will set up a final redoubt in the kitchen around the refrigerator, but it won’t hold. All ice cream sandwiches will be plundered. We are excited – and so, so blessed.
Liz Watkins - January 24, 2019 1:44 pm
Gotta love Grandmas!!! Definitely gives her a purpose in life. Everyone needs to be needed!
Sure hope Grandma had a wonderful time!
Jo Ann - January 24, 2019 1:46 pm
Thank you, Sean. What memories this brings us, to me, anyway. What I wouldn’t give to see my Grandmas once again & to be spoiled as only Grandmas can.
Arelene Mack - January 24, 2019 2:20 pm
Precious Granny memories come alive for me when I read your stories. When I married at age 20, I had 7 grandparents & a step-grandfather alive – all the grandparents for both my family and my new husband’s family. One by one they walked on and now WE are the grandparents. With great excitement we anticipate every visit from our grandchildren as none of them love close to us.
I understand the “too friendly, too soon” thing that may have made the Granny in your story cautious. Once in a grocery store, when I admired her boots, a pre-teen girl told me she shared her cowgirl boots with her sister since they only had one pair. At the check out, I told her folks I would gladly give them three pair of cowgirl boots if they would just follow me home – the store was only 4 blocks from my house. They said they would, and then didn’t. “Too friendly, too soon” and the boots went into a local yard sale. My good intentions, their loss.
Cathi - January 24, 2019 2:53 pm
Thank you Sean. God bless all grandmothers like that one. I sure do miss mine
Debbie Britt - January 24, 2019 2:54 pm
Makes me think of my Grandmother McCaslin! She didn’t have much money but you never knew it when you sat at her table! She lived alone for 30 plus years and made do on a measly Social Security check! Always paid her tithe and bills first … then tried to stretch the rest out till another SS check! Oh how I loved going to her house! I never knew she didn’t have money because she made all of her many grandchildren feel like THEY were special! We now have 6 grandchildren of our own and I have tried my best to make them feel the same way! There are different levels of rich…. we are.. just not on the monetary side!
Sherry - January 24, 2019 3:00 pm
Sorry, Sean…I think Michael needs to lose his biases…or maybe he never really talked to his grandmother. My mom was a liberated lady, but if you asked her, feeding people and loving on her husband, kids and grandkids was her purpose in life and she loved every minute of it! I will never be a grandmother and believe me, I have been more than equal and liberated all of my adult life…but I love feeding people and loving on other’s grandkids!! Keep seeing what you see, thinking what you think and writing about it all!
Jenny Young - January 24, 2019 3:01 pm
We just don’t understand what this really means until we’re there. I am so super blessed to see my grandbaby almost every single day.
Edna B. - January 24, 2019 3:25 pm
I love how you treated “Grandma.” Yup, I’m one of them too. I’ve been Meema and Great Meema for many years, and I love when my grandchildren and great grandchildren come to visit with me. I am also very blessed. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.
Nell F. Hamrick - January 24, 2019 4:40 pm
Enjoyed your story. Ignore Michael. He/she doesn’t have a clue.
Shelton A. - January 24, 2019 5:10 pm
You’re a good ma, Sean. Thanks for the memories and reminders.
rantsandravescom - January 24, 2019 5:53 pm
I am a grandmother. All my grandchildren are grown. We haven’t had a baby in our family in over 20 years. But by June I will be a great-grandmother. I can’t wait. I love that new baby already. It’s a privilege to be a grandmother.
Cindy - January 24, 2019 8:10 pm
Thank you from all us grandma’s!
Gloria Knight - January 24, 2019 8:27 pm
My Grandmother was right down the road and I loved going there after school. I knew there would be homemade pie, banana pudding, or still warm cake for a treat. She lived to 102 and I was blessed to hold her hand when she took her last breath.I hope my grandchildren will feel the same way about me.
Jack Darnell - January 24, 2019 11:36 pm
Keep on trying Sean, you’ll get it right! LOL I know Granny did appreciate the help. I know my mama would have. Nice read and yep the GRANDLOVES are petted by a sweet granny.
Roy Parker - January 25, 2019 3:48 pm
Thanks, Sean. You precisely described my maternal grandmother. I do hope she didn’t wait for the kids to arrive before bringing in the ice cream sandwiches, however.
Gwen Monroe - January 25, 2019 5:48 pm
Goodness. You’ve caused me to cry twice this morning. First your podcast “Daddy’s guitar ” and now this. Being a Granny, I know this all too well. I only have one grandchild and she lights up my world. My husband kids that if I were on my deathbed, all we would need do is have her walk in and I would come to life. So true. Thanks Sean.
W. Gary Smith - February 23, 2019 8:45 am
My wife and I are blessed to have three of our four grandchildren in close proximity of us. Our three grandsons are frequent weekend visitors and love eating their G-Daddy’s cooking. Holidays include all the immediate and extended family.
I developed a love for cooking from my fraternal grandmother and my mother. Very much like the Grandma in your writing, they loved feeding family, especially the kids.
I learned so much from them and not just about cooking. They provided food and love for large families during tough times.
I was young when my Grandmother Smith passed away. She was known as “Aunt Mary” to most everyone. A brief eulogy at her funeral by a distant cousin, who was a frequent guest at her table, heartfully summed it up. He told everyone that he loved Aunt Mary and one thing was for sure…if you stopped by her house you were always going to get something to eat.
Teena K. - February 23, 2019 10:28 am
Your depiction is spot on for most. As a Mammaw to 13 Granblessings…3, I care for during the workweek, it is True, about food! Very endearing, the thought that we can be remembered by ALL things good. Food, warmth, comfort, how many don’t have that and wish for it. I hope mine will have that in their heart forever! My own childrens’ favorite dish is my chicken n dumplins’ Keep on with your writing, always.
Kathryn - February 23, 2019 1:23 pm
Thank you, Sean. I get it because I was blessed with not one, but TWO grandmothers like this! I feel sorry for Michael because he obviously was not! And I strongly suspect he is not from “down here.” My grannies had “house dresses,” “visiting/shopping dresses” and then, their all-out finery, (complete with hats), “church dresses.” They did wear their house dresses to clean in, but when they left the house, they were impeccable. They both absolutely adored their grands, and I am quite sure they would have seen themselves in this little granny.
Janet - February 23, 2019 2:44 pm
My grannies were not great cooks. I had great Aunt Gladys to make grown men weep tears of joy at the sight of one her chocolate meringue pies. My grannies, nevertheless, fed us very, very well. Like most southern women, they also gardened, could gut and clean a fish, break up a fight with the business end of a broom and hug away any sadness or fear in her grandchildren.
I think Sean has great respect for women and ALL of their abilities. However, he also understands that each one is a different and unique human being and you can’t lump us all into one category, nor speak for all of us or even one of us cause we speak for ourselves, thank you very much. I can assure the gentleman who is upset about Sean’s portrayal of this sweet lady, that if any of us women who are his readers felt the same way, we could speak for ourselves and certainly would not need any man to take it upon himself to presume what we are thinking and be our mouthpiece. If Sean ever wrote something that diminished women, we would be the first to say something and you sir, bless your heart, can just step aside because we need your help about as much as a raccoon needs a pair of roller skates. Love you Sean!
doylesgirl - February 23, 2019 8:10 pm
I am a Grandmother of five. This takes me back to when I visited mine….I don’t even come close.
Patricia Terrell - February 23, 2019 11:36 pm
The checkout person always knows when my grandkids are coming…… there are always extra treats, desserts, and little toy surprises on the final total. Linens are changed, favorite toys are brought out of the closet, and we check the events in the neighboring areas for “kid friendly” happenings….They keep us on our toes, and we live longer because of those precious visits….
Jennifer - February 24, 2019 3:07 am
Wonderful. I loved my Grandmother so much and now I am a Grandmother and you just painted a perfect picture of how I would love to be seen by others. Also brought sweet soul tears.
Susan - February 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Someone once said that memories are mind-seen pictures with heart-written captions. Your writing matches my memories of my grandmother, so it’s easy for me to identify with your comments and descriptive images. They are comforting to me. I also think that in many ways, writing is a lot like painting, and most of us know what it’s like to walk through an art exhibit: you connect strongly with some pieces, scratch your head about others, and some you just plain don’t like. But, I’ve never visited a museum where the intent was to blast the artist for his/her thoughts and/or personal insights. So sorry you got blasted on this one.
Margaret Green - February 25, 2019 2:37 pm
Oh my goodness Sean, this took me back to being a cashier in the local grocery store where I walked to every afternoon working after school. My heart was in this with some of the same feelings of wanting to accompany the same descriptive women and men home to get them set up for company. Yes, on occasion my boss and parents even let me, besides, we wouldn’t want ice cream sandwiches melting so double bagged those up for sure.
You are so fantastic in placing us in the hearts and souls of such as these. Thank you for continuing to spur our minds to take the time to be kind, offer goodness and recognize those who just need interest and attention… I know you made her day and she was even more so excited about her grandchildren coming than ever…. ?Kindness like this is real and I thank you for this story completely. You are great at placing us in the moment and remembering to always be humble, kind, and excited for others, too… Sean, please keep stirring our hearts with your words and drawings, too, thank you❤️