How is your son, Joe?

It is 3:00 a.m. I can’t sleep. Fortunately, I rarely have rough days anymore. I may have a difficult moment here and there, but overall, I am good.¬†Yesterday was a rough day for me. Although I have only had about 3.5 hours of sleep I am wide awake. It snowed since I went to bed. The trees look like they were sprinkled with powdered sugar. Lovely. Today is going to be a better day.

I will be honest, I am not a huge fan of a crowded grocery store. I’m the one that you might find shopping on a Sunday afternoon during a Steeler game when the rest of the city is at home on their couches. With that said, yesterday was not a good day to shop for food. It was not a “Bargain Shopper” day, so, other than the rumors of an upcoming snowfall, I have no idea why so many people were in the store.

As I pulled into the parking lot I found a spot next to a cart return. I watched as an employee gathered the carts that were scattered between cars, to take them back into the store. I sat in my car for a moment and thought of Joe. Joe worked at this grocery store when he was in high school. Even after he moved on from that job, and we would shop together, he always gathered a few stray carts when we were in the parking lot. I asked him once why he still did that and he said, “Mama, you got to help a brother out.”

Joe was a foodie. Joe liked to cook. If he had the opportunity to go to the store with me, he did. I can’t look at a case of Lipton Green Tea, one of his favorite drinks, without seeing Joe filling a cart with eight cases, and, without laughing, saying to me, “So, do we need anything else?” As I laughed at him, a woman standing near us said to me, “I bet he is fun to be around.” Yes, he was.¬†I found grocery shopping, in general, very difficult for the weeks and months after Joe’s passing. The sight of that tea broke my heart for a very long time.

I avoided that store, shopping in another that is nearby, for a year after Joe’s passing. With time and healing, and by the Grace of God, I now have no problem going to that store and I smile to myself at the sight of a case of Lipton tea. I will say that I avoid seeing the few women who knew and worked with Joe, until yesterday. As I stood with my food on the conveyor belt the sales clerks were changing shifts. Crap.

It was my turn. The woman made eye contact with me and I could see she recognized me. With a big smile on her face she said, “Hi! How is your son, Joe? I haven’t seen him in a long time.” Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Immediately I felt like I was whacked on the side of the head. Struggling to speak and no time to think, I said, “Joe has died.” The last word caught in my throat like a bone and was barely audible. Immediately her expression changed. She asked how, I said an accident. I don’t go into details. She was kind and very apologetic. She reached out and placed her hand over mine. Looking me in the eye she says, “I am so sorry. I remember Joe as always having a beautiful smile on his face. He was always nice to everyone, especially the senior citizens. You should be very proud that you raised such a kind, young man.”

My eyes filled with tears and I fought to keep them from overflowing. I thanked her.

I sat in my car and cried. I thought of the many, many times that people asked me about Joe, back in the day. I miss hearing that. I thought about how much I miss hearing people saying his name, in the present tense. I thought about how much I miss the normalcy of my old life. Life with a son.

I took a deep breath. I asked Joe to help me to find the strength to shake it off. I saw his big smile in my mind. I thought of my favorite photo of the two of us. I felt the lump leave my throat. Thank you, Joe.

I put the car in gear and drove home.



Please leave a comment

  1. cindy hanczar Says:

    thinking of you my dear….