The Grocery Drop
I can hear my husband on the phone with his mom in the other room, and from the conversation fragments I overhear, I know I’ll be squeezing in a trip to the grocery store tomorrow. I mentally reschedule my day as I swallow down my bitterness with the last spoonful of ice cream.
“We arranged for Allison to provide some extra help with errands so this wouldn’t happen,” I mutter to myself. “If they had actually gone grocery shopping instead of having lunch, she would have food for the week.”
I walk back to the freezer, my spoon clinking around the empty bowl, and consider eating straight out of the container rather than refilling. But I pause two seconds too long, and my better judgment kicks in. I reluctantly shut the freezer and return my dish to the sink.
* * * * *
I speed-walk the familiar aisles, a woman on a mission. Little feet dangle in front of me, and hands reach out to touch brightly colored boxes and shiny cans and crinkly bags. I select seven flavors of yogurt, presumably one per day, although I know they will really be gone in an afternoon or two. I pop fish crackers into the baby bird mouth that has begun to complain. I select a small loaf of bread, and toss it haphazardly into the cart between the soup cans and the milk.
I wonder if she will even bother to make sandwiches with the ingredients I have in the cart, or if she’ll just eat the peanut butter and jelly straight out of the jar like she did last time. I circle back and put the jelly back on the shelf and replace it with a package of deli meat. This all feels so ridiculous. She’s a grown woman who can go buy cigarettes at the grocery store but can’t seem to venture into the rest of the store to buy food—even with a list—while she’s already there. My cart full, I head to the check out before I get myself really worked up.
* * * * *
“Sorry to drop and run,” I say, the refrigerator beeping in protest at having been open too long, “but Jane is asleep in the car, and I have to get Maddy from preschool.”
“Only two cans of orange juice?”
“Yes, I think two cans is plenty for one person for a week. And please try not to drink it all at once. Remember the last time it gave you a stomachache?” I finish putting away the groceries as she watches. “All this should easily last you until you meet Allison again to go shopping.”
I sigh at this standard response that means she’s tuning me out. Of course she would rather have a lunch date with Allison than go grocery shopping with her. Who wouldn’t?
“Okay, I’m off,” I say, trying to sound relatively cheerful. “See you later.”
“Oh, okay.” She’s clearly disappointed I’m leaving so quickly. “Thank you so much the groceries and for stopping by.”
I can’t manage more than a noncommittal, “Mmmm Hmmm.” I know she’s really grateful, but I sometimes wonder if the groceries are only a means to an end. The thought of being manipulated for more attention despite daily conversations with my husband and weekly get-togethers causes my frustration to rise again. I quickly get into the car before she notices.
* * * * *
My husband hangs up the phone and joins me in the bathroom at the sink. “She says to thank you again for the grocery drop today.” With a mouth full of minty suds, I acknowledge only with a slight nod.
As he prepares his own toothbrush, I study him in the mirror, noting traces of her in his eyes and nose. Sometimes a gesture or the occasional phrase, also handed down, slip out. The biggest differences, though, can’t be seen with the eye. Logic and reason that remain intact in him have eroded away in her. Funny how so many years of the “solution”—treatments, harsh medications—have left her as debilitated and childlike as the disease itself does. I feel grateful that with all the similarities between my husband and his mom, this profound difference remains.
I continue washing away the day, considering my own reflection, when revelation strikes. My dark curls and olive skin make it obvious that she and I share no genes, but when it comes to our struggles, temptations, attitudes? It’s as if we’ve been cut from the same cloth.
I wish I could wash away my shame and judgment.
I don’t really know how to move forward with this insight. Don’t know how it is going to help me love better and battle resentment. But for a few moments at the sink, I find understanding.