My mother (still hard to believe) is no longer, physically, with us. While she was living I did my best to keep our relationship on an even keel. I did this, partially, by refusing some of her wishes, no matter how well-intended or how much sense they made. When I drove her the twenty-five minutes or so to the nearest Kroger to do her shopping, I acknowledged that yes, she was very wise to do it on a Tuesday. Tuesday is Senior Citizen Day and shoppers over the age of 55 received a 5% discount. At least once or twice in the car and then again in the store itself, my mother would implore me to sign up. I qualified after all and, such savings! My standard answer was “I’ll think about it.” Then we’d split up and I’d spend my usual forty dollars while my mother – she lived alone – proceeded to drop a hundred bucks or more.
“I’ve got a coupon.”
“Four gallons of milk?”
“I’m going to freeze it.”
“Can you freeze milk?”
“You can freeze anything.”
“How about eggs?”
“Probably, you can.”
(Mom didn’t like the puny freezer at the top of her refrigerator so she bought a regular, upright one for the garage. It stood catty-corner to the extra refrigerator.)
So I’m checked out, waiting and here comes Mom, pushing a cart that really needs a tow truck. And where is she headed? Self-checkout.
“You know how to do this?”
“I just let the lady do it for me.”
“Mom, it’s not her job.”
“Then what is her job?”
Mom and the Kroger employee get on famously. That’s what my mother thinks. She can’t hear the woman mumbling under her breath as she responds, a dozen times, to the pop-up message on our checkout screen – “The Attendant Has Been Notified to Assist You.” Just when I think we’re finished, Mom holds up a handful of…
“I’ve got coupons!”
Here comes the Attendant, back again, her hand-held scanner drawn like the .45 she probably wishes it was.
“Now, M’am, this one here is two weeks old.”
“So just push the little button, it will go through.”
“I can’t do that, M’am.”
“I won’t tell on you, honest.”
In the parking lot, I’m struggling with the cart while Mom is pouring over the receipt. It’s the length of a party streamer and it flutters merrily in the breeze.
“Oh look, she did it for me. She made good on that expired coupon!”
“You’ll get her fired.”
“They fire her, I’ll burn the place down.”
Groceries finally in the trunk and us in the car, my mother holds the receipt triumphantly, an inch from my face.
“What am I looking at?”
“I saved nearly 27 dollars with my Kroger card.”
“That’s great, Mom.”
“My Senior Citizen discount was almost five dollars.”
“That could be you.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Pull over to the gas pumps. I’m going to spend my reward points.”
“Three cents off a gallon, for nuttin’, for money I would have spent anyway. How can you beat that?”
You can’t beat it, I guess and so we go to the gas pumps in the far corner of the parking lot and fill up.
“Now that’s what I call a successful shopping trip. Home, James!”
It’s late Tuesday morning. I’m just back from Kroger and, after getting everything put away, I call my wife.
“I saved nearly 39 dollars with my Kroger card.”
“That’s great, Honey. Maybe you should lie down a minute and rest.”
“You know? That’s a good idea. Maybe I will, maybe I will.”
“Did you get your discount?”
“You know I did.”
“Good for you. Fran would be proud. Hello? Honey? Are you there?”
“Sorry. I just had a ‘moment’.”
“That’s all right, I understand.”
“Hey, what do you think about an extra freezer, for the garage?”