This weekend my 93-year-old grandfather died. He got sick a few short months after his wife of 68 years passed away. Whatever the doctors say, we know he had a broken heart.
What was so inspiring about my grandfather was that he was as mentally acute the day he passed as he was 60 years ago, telling us stories about traveling the world, his career as a NYC firefighter and his weekly shopping trips to the supermarket.
I’m being serious; this is not just a segue into some random food shopping topic. My grandpa talked a lot about grocery shopping. It became his weekly task when my grandma developed Dementia and one of his only trips outside the house. He took it all in.
His local grocery store is an Associated Supermarket. It was convenient. But it was also the staff that kept him going back.
Obvious by the way he wandered the aisles that he relied on the shopping cart as much for physical support as he did to hold his groceries, the staff jumped at the opportunity to help him.
“I stopped so I could look at the shelves and find what I wanted, but before I even looked up someone was there asking me what I needed,” he would tell me. “The first few times I told them to leave me alone; that I didnt need help. But they kept asking, so I would tell them, and they would grab it and put it in my cart. How nice is that?”
Grandpa lived in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood and many of the employees were of Hispanic descent. One on occasion the employee asked him something and when he couldn’t understand his accent (he was hard of hearing to begin with) the employee took it upon himself to help him: “The guy just took my list and came back with what I needed. I didn’t even have to follow him. He disappeared and returned with my products. He was so helpful to an old guy like me.”
The store stocked a lot of imported ethnic items that Grandpa “had no idea what to do with,” he’d say, but he’d rave about the new flavors of DiGiorno pizza that he discovered and how much he loved Progresso Soup.
His favorite part of the outing was checking out at the register where friendly employees would inquire about his day and ask where his wife was. Then someone would follow him out to his car and help him load his groceries.
It wasn’t until my Grandma passed that he began ordering his groceries from Peapod over the phone. He was amazed by the convenience but sometimes disappointed in the product, mainly the substitutions or quality of produce that was delivered. But it was easier.
Whenever I’d ask if he needed anything he’d describe all the food he got delivered recently, and then follow up with a tale from the Associated.
He says he missed getting out of the house. But I think he missed his team of happy helpers at the store who always made sure he got what he needed and had a good experience doing it.