A-Shopping We Will Go

A-Shopping We Will Go

“Can I go? Can I, huh?” He was so excited he could barely stand still. 

“Yes, you can go. But don’t be bugging me about candy and toys.”

“I won’t, I won’t.” 

“Okay, get ready. Bundle up. It’s cold outside.”

A mother talking to her child? No. He was my husband, who daily retreated toward childhood as Alzheimer’s disease erased the things he had learned over 67 years. 

Related: 16 Things It Took Me 50 Years to Learn (Senior Wisdom)

We hadn’t been grocery shopping together in a long time. I like to hurry down the aisles with my list and get it done as quickly as possible. It’s a chore. 

But Fred thought it was fun. He used to do the shopping for me. Armed with my list and a fistful of coupons, he cruised through the store, looking at everything, humming with the music coming from the speakers, and talking to the checkers, the baggers, and the guy stocking the vegetable bins. 

But more and more, he would buy the wrong things or not buy something I needed. 

“Where’s the ham?” I’d ask as we unloaded the bags.

“I couldn’t find it.” 

There was the week he came home with six cans of chopped olives I didn’t want and the week he announced that they didn’t sell orange juice anymore. We would quarrel over the missing foods. I would scold him for not paying attention to the list, and he would complain that my lists weren’t detailed enough. Then I’d go back to the store to pick up the things he’d missed.

If we went together, he would wander off with the cart, and I’d be stuck holding three cans of tomato sauce, a bag of spaghetti and a block of mozzarella cheese, wondering where he’d gone. 

It just got easier to do it myself, especially after we knew why Fred got so confused. 

But today, five weeks after the diagnosis, knowing our time of doing normal things was running out, I invited him to join me. Getting dressed, he sang, “A-shopping we will go, a-shopping we will go, heigh-ho the derry-o, a-shopping we will go.” 

On the way to the store, he drove, playing a jazz CD loud on the truck stereo, singing along in his rumbly voice. 

At Thriftway, I passed him the blue-handled cart, thinking about what it would be like to sit a child in the space designed for little ones, tying them in with the blue webbed belt. Instead of the children I never bore, I had Fred to take care of.

In the vegetable aisle, Fred hung back as I grabbed a packaged salad and two jars of dressing. I waved him to come closer. He pushed the cart up so close he pinned me to the shelf. I gently pushed it back.

I tore a plastic bag off the rack and started filling it with mushrooms. 

“Mushrooms. Brown mushrooms,” he chanted.


Broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, onions. Checking my list. Feeling him following. “If you see anything you want, just holler,” I said. 

No response. He stood staring into space.

Past the soft drinks, DVDs, plants. He bent to stroke a ceramic angel. “She’s asleep.”

“How can an angel watch over us if she’s asleep?” I asked. 

He smiled. “I don’t know.”


“What a mess,” he said suddenly. 

“What? The mayonnaise?”

“No. This.” He gestured toward the cart. “It’s getting all messed up. You don’t do it right. The veggies will get squashed.” 

“Well, then straighten it out. That’s your job. Arrange it however you want.”

He didn’t move. “It’s all messed up.” 

Muttering to the bottled lemon and lime juices, I moved on past the candy, around the bend to the dish soap. He lagged behind, looking at the wine, catching up near the fish counter.

Frozen foods. Peas, mixed vegetables, asparagus. 

“Can you grab three cans of frozen orange juice?” 

He did.

Ground beef. 

“Turkey?” he said, pointing to a bin of breasts and hindquarters. “But not the butt.” 

“No, not the butt,” I said, taking a breast, surprised he remembered that I had talked about getting turkey this week. 

In the cereal aisle, he stare at the boxes up close, like a man trying to see in the dark with a tiny flashlight. He did not recognize the cereal he wanted, although I saw it right away. Alzheimer’s patients often have trouble processing what they see.

“This one,” I pointed. 

He read slowly. “Bananas and almonds?”

“Yes, that’s the one.” 

I put the box in the cart.

“They don’t have Post cereals,” he said, seeking the raisin bran. 

“Sure they do.” It was right in front of us. “The purple one.”

He slowly pulled a box off the shelf and added it to the growing pile in the basket. 

Chicken broth. Tomato sauce. Linguine. 

“Hey, they have matador sauce,” he said, studying the bottles in the Mexican food section. “Sweet chili sauce. Melinda’s sauce, whatever that is.” 

“Hmm.” My stomach growled with hunger. It was almost noon. I wanted only to get done and eat lunch. 

I rushed through the bread and milk as he followed, gazing vacantly at people passing by. 

Near the cottage cheese, an attractive older woman with a blonde pageboy stared at me, then smiled. How nice, I thought. Or maybe I was getting a little crazy, too. 

More pages: Next »


    Our Sponsors

    Your ad could be here.

    Advertise on Suddenly Senior


    This top-ranked site now has over 4,000 pages of humor, nostalgia, senior advocacy and useful information for seniors 50+. Updates weekly!

    The daily e-zine for everyone over 50 who feels way too young to be old.

    "...the perfect mix of Andy Rooney, Dave Barry, and Garrison Keilor, combining knee-slapping humor with useful information and genuine compassion."

    "Thousands look to and trust Suddenly Senior. Other Websites pale in comparison to the real-life, intimate look into senior lives. What sets apart Suddenly Senior is its blistering honesty and its incomparable encouragement. Millions need guidance."

    Suzette Martinez Standring

    "Best Senior Site ever on the Web! Great, up-to-date information on how seniors can save money on drugs. Wonderful nostalgia. Hard-hitting senior advocacy pieces that get read in high places. Wonderful humor. It's all at Suddenly Senior."


    Now read by 3.1 million in 83 newspapers from Florida's St. Petersburg Times to the Mumbai, India News.