With four kids in tow, my trips to Kroger resemble the game show Supermarket Sweep. They are four ticking time bombs. Inevitably someone will be hungry or tired or want candy or chips or some big sparkly eyed stuffed animal. If I go so fast that they’re preoccupied trying to keep up, I don’t have to deal with any of that.
We moved after the divorce, but still go to the same Kroger though there are two closer. I know where everything is and can be in and out within 15 minutes.
Yesterday I had to excuse myself for dashing into an isle in front of an older woman to grab my balsamic vinegar. I was going to back out of the isle and head to the next item on my list, but her face absolutely lit up when she saw my kids.
She tried to talk to the baby, but the baby is not very friendly to strangers. Her faced dropped. I pushed my five year old towards her knowing he would engage her. He did and her face lit up again. They made small talk for a minute as did she and I. She was so sweet and seemed so happy to have this interaction with us.
When I did walk away, I got halfway down the isle and turned around to make sure my big kids were keeping up with me. The woman was still standing at the end of the isle, watching and smiling. I smiled back and nearly began to cry.
My grandfather died ten years ago. My 91 year old grandma hasn’t been the same since. Her story isn’t mine to tell, but I will say she is depressed and open about that fact.
I wrote in my last post about how my dad’s entire family use to spend the holidays at her house. And how everyone has moved and families have grown to now host their own holidays.
Many of her children and grandchildren have invited her, not just to spend holidays, but to live with them, myself included. But she lives in the house she grew up in, raised her own family in, and spent many one on one years after my grandfather retired with him. She will never leave that house.
Also, as she’s gotten older and her eyesight has worsened, she is no longer able to drive. So unless someone takes her somewhere, she is confined to her home. Always alone.
My father mentioned recently how happy my grandma was when he took her to the grocery store. When I turned around in the isle and saw that woman smiling, it made me think of my grandma. It made me think of how little human interaction she gets and how infrequently she gets to be out in the world that she is just thrilled to go to the grocery store.
On a regular basis, we walk straight past each other and don’t even make eye contact let alone smile or interact. How difficult is it to look at someone and smile? You don’t have to have a full on conversation with someone, but can it be so bad to smile and say, “good morning” or “hello”? It doesn’t hurt, I promise.
That being said, there are those for whom it is painful. I was so isolated my first few years as a housewife/mom that I would be anxiety ridden to even think about interacting with or smiling at a stranger. As a new mother the lack of adult interaction was so foreign and turned me into a bit of a recluse.
But as my anxiety subsided, I was in need of human interaction. I seriously looked forward to chatting up the cashier at the checkout or talking to another mum at the library. I spent days on end alone with children and a few hours in the evening with my husband. When I went to my daughters karate class, I had diarrhea of the mouth.
So imagine being completely alone all the time. Day after day. Maybe the woman I saw in Kroger has a living husband and children/grandchildren nearby. But maybe she’s alone and her interaction with myself and my son is the only one she will have for a week.
Either way, it made her smile. I hope that if someone sees my grandma out in public they will take the time to engage her and make her smile too. We’re all busy. We have places to be, things to do and catastrophes to avert. But if you give someone just two minutes, you could be making their entire day.