Throwing elbows

By: Bob Jagendorf

There are power shoppers then there were my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law. These ladies did geriatric workouts before heading to the stores for their weekly bouts of elbow throwing, you haven’t seen dedication to the art of shopping until you’ve witnessed a ninety-year-old woman stretching out her hamstrings.

In the morning, my husband’s uncle would drop them off at the entrance of Walmart or Fred Meyers on his way to work with a wave goodbye and promises to return hours later so as not to throw off their groove. They would saunter in and greet the store employees like family, then shimmy down the aisles to pick over what they’d missed during their last marathon shopping trip the week before. Candles, throw pillows, and slippers – you name it, they checked the price and moved on, blocking the aisles with their shopping carts and discussing lunch. My mother-in-law could root out an orange “priced to sell” tag hidden in the depths of a center bin within minutes of rolling up. Shoppers quickly learned to not be fooled by her sweet smile, she’d cut you off at the knuckles if your hand strayed too close to her chosen item.

As news of their excursions grew, the family knew where to find them at any hour thus they received visitors in the bedding aisle. They’d be hustled off for lunch then returned to the store so they didn’t miss another showing of The Lion King on the store’s multiple flat screens. Inevitably, there would be mix-ups. We’d receive phone calls at 2am asking for a ride home from the pair, the uncle forgetting to swing by after work.They’d just pile in after we rolled up, sleepy and confused, and chat about what they’d found that day hidden behind the toilet cleaners.

Holidays – schmolidays. For Janis and Gerda, it was Christmas shopping year round. Need slippers in the August heat? BINGO — Gerda had four pairs tucked away in various sizes. Knife set? Check. Sweatshirt with adorable bunnies splattered across the front? No need to even ask, my friend. Last minute shopping was as foreign to them as spending the week without hearing the ping of the registers.

As age and dementia claimed my grandmother-in-law, the trips slowed but I have no doubt there’s a motorized scooter out there with her initials carved into the handlebars.

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2 thoughts on “Throwing elbows”

  1. A humorous and inspirational anecdote to us all as aging has its way with our mind and bodies. The ability to engage in any activity as time takes its toll is to be valued.

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