I saw them in the Wal-Mart, a day or two ago. He had to be about ninety and she was maybe a year or two behind. Age had stolen their stature, leaving a walking shell of what the man and woman once were. He used the grocery cart for a walker. His walking cane was riding in the buggy.
Yes, he shuffled his feet, never lifting either shoe off the floor.
His clothes were wrinkled.
She walked beside him, holding onto the side of the buggy. They were in the fresh fruit section, fighting with those little plastic bags. Arthritis. So hard to open. First a few bananas, then three or four pears, a lemon and two apples. Fruit salad for the coming week, I thought. From time to time, he would look over at her and she would nod her head, the sign of approval.
I had a list, given me by my wife. I marched from one aisle to another, picking two cans of peas, a bag of cornmeal: self-rising, yellow, Martha White only. Then a dozen eggs: open the carton, check to make sure none are broken, a container of yoghurt and a pound of coffee for the two of us. My list was longer. That’s not important for right now.
As I hiked from aisle to aisle, I saw the couple again, two, three, maybe four more times. I wasn’t counting, I was hunting for the items on my wife’s list. Like a scavenger hunt.
We arrived at the checkout counter at the same time. They were in front of me.
He carefully picked up each and every item. He inspected each item. My Dad used to do that. Carefully, he set each item on the conveyer belt.
She opened her purse, then opened a small money purse, the kind with the gold snaps that click to open and click to close. Her fingers found the credit card and handed it to the cashier, like it was a loaded pistol. The cashier just handed it back. Then told her how to use the card reader.
She was small and frail.
The card reader was just above eye-ball height for the lady. Her husband shuffled two or three steps away, started loading the white plastic bags into the buggy.
In the background, sitting on a bench against the wall was one of those long-haired hippy looking guys. Short pants, open shirt, wearing a pair of sandals. We called them folk hippies back when I listened to hard-rock music. Except for the gray hair and the pot belly, he hadn’t changed one iota in the past fifty years.
I was surprised when he got up, stepped towards the older couple and put his two bags in their buggy, then walked beside them as they left the store. The old man was shuffling along and she was holding the side of the buggy again.
What kind of stories could they tell? Father, Mother and Son.
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