Sunday, January 2, 2011

Can I Hire You to Take My Mother to Walmart?

I still don't feel comfortable with Mom driving since she had her stroke. She's bounced back amazingly but she still has a few concentration glitches. She was hot to go to Walmart yesterday so I ended up taking her. I'm sure there are times when I've been more frustrated but, off-hand, I can't remember when it might have been.

I personally loathe Walmart. I probably don't step foot inside the door more than a few times a year and that's because, of course, there are now many things in a small town like this one that you can buy no place else. Eventually, I expect little communities like Wabash to consist simply of a Ginormous-Mega-Supersized Walmart surrounded by a ring of residential neighborhoods. Maybe we'll keep a couple buildings for government services and possibly a downtown block for lawyers and insurance sales people (unless Walmart offers them space too). I suppose we'll continue to have fast food restaurants but, naturally, they'll all want to be clustered near Walmart.

We started out with a regular-sized Walmart (we also had a K-Mart and a Target for a while). Then the baby Walmart sold out and moved across the street into a new Supercenter. In addition to a grocery section with a delicatessen and a bakery, this store features a bank and a beauty shop and a pizza place and a pharmacy and place to sign up for cell phone service and a Western Union.  Of course, you can also get your garden supplies and auto parts there. No gas station yet but I'm sure that's coming and then one trip to Walmart will do it all. We won't need anything else. At some point in the future, you could imagine that every single resident of Wabash County (population: 30,000 or so) will be in Walmart at the same time.

On this particular trip with Mom, I was determined to be cheerful. She hadn't been out of the house much so it was rather a treat for her. My good cheer lasted the length of the first aisle (bakery) but faltered as we rounded the corner into the meat department. That's because Mom wanted to pick up and inspect every single item! Even things we wouldn't eat in a million years.

"Mom," I said, "you know there is no way we're going to buy tongue or brains or lamb or head cheese. Why are you fondling them?"

"I just like to see how much they cost," she said as if discovering the price of a cow's tongue was a fascinating way of passing time.

We ambled slowly up and down the various aisles, testing the firmness of tomatoes and estimating the weight of cabbage heads. We debated for fifteen minutes which kind of orange juice we wanted - high pulp, medium, or low. We discussed the pros and cons of various brands of bacon and argued about whether to purchase large curd or small curd cottage cheese.

After we left the grocery section, we proceeded into the rest of the store, of which we had to cover every square inch including the baby department.

By now, I was a seething mass of stress inside. "Mom!" I almost yelled, "why are we looking at layette sets? We haven't had a baby in the family in 35 years!"

"No, but I was thinking I might pick up something for Larry and Alice's Little Stephen."

"Little Stephen is going to graduate high school before we're out of Walmart at the rate we're going!"

There was no hurrying her. We looked at tools and towels and car batteries. We checked out fabrics and craft supplies. (Neither us has sewn a stitch or created a craft in decades). She debated whether she wanted a new suitcase and pondered purchasing a a plant. She flipped through magazines and compared prices of computers although she has never even turned on a computer.

She ran into people she knew and chit-chatted, leaning against her cart, while I slowly tore my hair out.

I was having heart palpitations by the time we finally got thru check-out. We were almost out the door, when she said, "oh, I forgot, we were going to get you another jar of creamer".

"That's okay," I replied, "I decided I don't like creamer in my coffee anymore."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive," I said, giving her a little shove through the door.