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.