I passed an older couple in the paper towel aisle of the grocery store today. That’s not unusual but the elderly man was slightly stooped and was wearing a full set of Dickies. I experienced a pang of grief as I thought about my Dad, whose standard outfit was Dickies for as long as I can remember.
And seeing this Dad figure shopping with his wife brought a flood of memories of that time when Dad began to ‘help’ Mom grocery shop, much to her chagrin.
Now that I’ve learned more about introverts from reading the book “Quiet” I know that my mother was a true introvert. She treasured her time alone and she enjoyed shopping unaccompanied whenever she could.
When I was a kid, Mom had to schlep me along on her weekly trip to the A&P. We’d check off the items on her list, gather up the S&H green stamps, go home and paste them in books, thumbing through the catalog dreaming of future redemption. One of the best things she purchased with green stamps was a slick set of TV trays, giving us the freedom to eat in front of the TV on Sunday night while we watched The Wonderful World of Disney.
Mom’s reign of the grocery store lasted most of her married life, but when Dad retired in his 80’s he announced he was going to help her grocery shop. Knowing my mother’s penchant for alone time, and how little she had now that Dad was home 24/7, I knew this was not going to go well.
Dad had no concept of the cost of food, and he vowed he was going to lower the grocery bill, something he found essential now that he was no longer working. I think I heard Mom sigh all the way to my home 175 miles away and apparently her eye roll was of epic proportion.
It wasn’t long before Mom’s sputtering about Dad’s ‘help’ also included her dismay about the grocery tally. Once Dad started perusing the aisles and saw all the options, he was tossing items into the cart Mom would never consider buying.
I imagined this conversation:
Dad: Wow! I didn’t know they made mac and cheese you can microwave.
Mom: That’s not on the list.
Dad: Beef jerky. I haven’t had any of this for years.
Mom: That’s not on the list.
Dad: Look at the size of this bag of oranges. And the unit price makes it so much cheaper than buying them individually.
Mom: We’ll never eat all those oranges before they spoil. There are only two of us you know.
Needless to say, Dad impacted the grocery budget, but not in the way he thought he would and he never mentioned reducing it again as he reveled in buying in bulk and trying out expensive convenience foods.
And eventually, Mom adjusted as she did so many times during their 70-year marriage.
Thankfully Dad never sparked an interest in shopping for clothing, preserving Mom’s solo excursions to J.C. Penney while he stayed home puttering around the house in his Dickies.
What’s your preference? Do you like to shop alone or with your partner? Do you think your relationship and your budget could survive having your partner suddenly ‘help’ with grocery shopping?