Monday was a planned shopping expedition. Ma had asked me to come early so I arrived at 9am. She wasn't dressed so I puttered with Dad's computer trying to explain to him the need to turn it on for more than a minute every month. The poor machine nearly choked with all the Windows updates. After twenty minutes, Ma shouted impatiently, "I'm ready." We whirled into the usual flurry of looking for the check book, getting her coat, her walker, and the soda bottles for return.
The ride up was pleasant. Ma nodded off, and I left Dad to enjoy the peace and quiet of his own thoughts. Since we were shopping on the fifth of the month, there were quite a few handicap spots available. Social Security checks were deposited on the first and funds available to seniors on the 3rd. I helped Ma across to the sidewalk. Dad came tooling out on a scooter for her. As I was taking the walker back to the car and hoping I could spend time reading my book, Ma shouted, "You come back and help me." Deep sigh.
From the entrance, I could see people jumping out of the way and I knew Ma is in that direction. I passed Dad at the bottle return machines, slowly and carefully feeding the cans and bottles in.
I caught up with Ma and she shoutedthe orders: Get 2 dozen of the medium eggs. I turned to put them in the scooter basket and she roared down the dairy aisle shouting more items: 2 gallons of milk, a gallon of orange juice, two cartons of cottage cheese - make sure it's the one with the pineapple in it. I ran after her occasionally lobbing an item into the basket. She also grumbled about the prices. Seems things have gone up, and Ma is not happy.
At the deli, she told me she wanted a pound of bologna and some provolone. "You like provolone. I'll buy you some provolone." Now, I don't eat raw cheese. Ever. She's only known this for some 50 years. "I'll get you some roast beef for lunch too even though I'm not supposed to have it."
"Ma, don't worry about the roast beef, bologna is fine. And remember I don't eat cheese so if you want provolone for yourselves get it." I take a deli ticket, number 52 and the deli is now serving 48.
"Let your father stand in line." With that she careened toward the meat case.
I headed back to the front of the store in search for Dad. He hadjust finished feeding a few cans into the return machine and is standing in line at the courtesy desk to get cash for his chit. Somewhere in the back of my head an alarm bell began ringing, but I ignored it. "Ma wants you to stand in line at the deli for bologna and provolone."
He looked at the deli ticket. "What number are they on?"
"I'll never make it."
"Then get another ticket." I sprinted toward the meat cases and nearly lost my lunch as I rounded the corner by the fish case. I smelled rotten fish. Even though I don't do the shopping, I know fish is not supposed to smell rotten. As an aside, I hate this store. It's not very clean. Packages are always dented and I question the freshness of the meat and produce.
Ma had stopped at the meat counter and was in deep contemplation. She pointed to a package and as the acolyte I handed her the first package to have the blessing. We continued down the miles of the meat case. Lift the meat, bless it and put it back.
There was a sale case with Stella D'Oro goodies. Ma put a package of anisette toasts in the cart. One of my favorites. A treat for me to go with lunch. Not a bad reward.
Dad finally caught up with us. "I have to go find the men's room." Vanished. We have been in the store close to an hour and have only progressed to meat. Produce, frozen foods and the aisle territory still needed to be explored. The alarm bell clanged.
In produce, Ma is delighted to have found Big Boy tomatoes at a good price. She prodded, poked and thumped looking for the best candidates. Another sign caught for plum tomatoes caught her eye. I heard a plop and there between my shoes was a Big Boy, murdered at the height of freshness with tomato guts oozing from its split skin. Ma was no where to be seen and I'm suddenly on the receiving end of disapproving stares from other shoppers. I slinked away, branded a tomato murderer.
Dad made another cameo, announced they needed salt, and vanished. The dawn broke. The three or four hour shopping expeditions aren't necessarily blamed on Ma, not with Houdini looking for items.
While inspecting celery Ma found another weeble lady to lament the rising cost of store items. The weeble lady tried to include me in the conversation. Since I don't grocery shop, I wouldn't know the cost between a carrot or a yam. I shrugged and smiled politely.
Dad caught up with us by the ice cream case. Another debate about flavors and Dad critiquing Ma's scooter manoeuver ability. Ma had gotten the scooter wheel wedged under the kick space of the freezers. We had to offload Ma and pull the scooter out.
"Do we have everything we need?
"We don't need to do the big shopping," she informed me. "You come back in two weeks to take us shopping again."
"Where's the list?"
"In my pocket."
A fine place for the list to reside. Ma decided the last item needed was paper towels, but another store had the item for a dollar less so she decided we had to go to this store. I wasn't happy but bit my tongue. She was happy because they were saving a dollar. In the mean time, I had to burn another gallon of gas to get to the other store. We have now been on this expedition for 3 hours. We have come close to the time I must leave in order to pick the Young One up at school.
We drove to the second store. "You have 10 minutes," I said to Dad.
We got back to their house at 10 minutes before 1pm. Dad and I unloaded the car. Ma was frantically looking for the lunch items.
"You're staying for lunch." More of a command than a statement
"I can't. I have to leave."
"You never stay to visit."
Oh, cheeze! "I could if you didn't use up all my time. I was here at 9am, but you're dancing around and we don't leave for another 20 minutes. You take 3 hours at the grocery store and then we have to go get one item at another store. That was my visiting time."
I left. No lunch and no anisette toast.