Saturday, January 19, 2013

Clean-up on aisle three.

I was in the grocery store shopping late this afternoon. Just doing mundane things like getting snacks since next week is Isaiah's week and replenishing the coffee stash. I picked up some eggs and milk and then just sort of stood there wishing I'd written out a list because I wasn't exactly sure if I needed those items or not.


I did suddenly recall that I needed contact lens solution, so over to the toiletries-and-such aisle I went. The fancy no-rub solution in the green box was literally ten dollars more than the Kroger brand. But, see, the fancy no-rub solution in the green box is the one that my eye doctor recommends.


Now me? I'm thrifty. No, not the kind of thrifty where I'd go dumpster diving or something, but enough where I pulled my readers out of my purse to inspect the ingredients on that green box that would make it ten dollars better for my vision. I was hoping they'd all be identical. But they weren't.


And yes. I am chea-- I mean thrifty, but I do value my vision. So I stuck with what I know and tossed the green box into my buggy. Next I stood there thinking to myself that I really should look into Lasik surgery so that I won't have to do this any more. But then I always think of the number of Ophthalmologists I know that wear glasses or contact lenses. The fact that THEY don't all have their eyeball flaps cut open has always bothered me. So in my head, I'm always all like, "Y'all first."


Where was I? Oh. In the Kroger non-food aisle. So yeah. I was basically in there piddling. Because, see, I was in a kid-free window, so I knew that the minute-moment-second that I set foot into my house that my three bears would pounce on me. Two with "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" issues and one with a "honey do" list.


So I had already gotten my eyebrows done and earlier had gone for a nice run. That morning I had attended sorority meeting and got to see lots and lots of my favorite people. Harry had definitely given me a luscious open window today and I knew that Kroger was the last stop before this train was off service.

I read a few more labels and started to the check out line. Just before I did, I saw Marla W., one of my student advisees who just finished up all of her residency interviews. I hugged her neck and listened as she updated me. And that part was good, it really was.

I said goodbye to Marla and continued toward the cashier. Just as I did I noticed a display of Jello pudding boxes on the shelf to my right. Cherry and lime and strawberry. And then I saw it--lemon. I stopped and pulled one of the boxes of lemon Jell-o from the perfectly stacked row. The corner of my mouth curled up in a half-smile as I recalled the very thing that lemon Jello meant to me:


She always made this lemon Jello cake that everyone loved. The recipe was super easy (even easy enough for no-bake Manning to make) but for whatever reason, it always tasted so much better when she made it. In fact, most recipes that she prepared always tasted better than anyone else' version. "That's because I put loooove in mine," she always said with a chuckle.

Yep. Especially her lemon Jello cake.

So yeah. I just stood there frozen with a box of lemon Jello in the middle of the "spices and baking needs" aisle at Kroger. In that moment, I felt my face warming up and my chest hurting. Not hurting like the kind that signals a medical emergency, but the kind that you feel and know only after you've lost someone very, very special. So I closed my eyes and did my best to wait it out. Hoping that no one who knew me would walk by or ask if I was okay.

And fortunately, no one did.

Nope, they didn't. But instead someone else showed up. Chrissie Hynde and the frickin' Pretenders decided to pay me a visit right then and there. Playing on the in-store stereo straight off of some soft-rock station. Yes. The Pretenders. Busting straight through the Kroger speakers and into my ear singing what I am convinced are lyrics written in cahoots with the universe designed specifically to make me burst into tears at that very moment in time.


First, I heard the initial bars coming in at the start of the song.

No, I told myself. No, no, no. Not this song. Not now.

But Chrissie was relentless. She didn't care that I was already on the tippy-tip edge of crying. No, she did not. As soon as I heard her voice coming through those speakers all sultry and somber, I dropped my head and started tapping my foot to break up the emotion. . . Dammit, Chrissie.

"Oh, why you look so sad?
Tears are in your eyes
Come on and come to me now. . ."

Shit. Shit, shit, shit. This was not the song I needed right now in Kroger. Not on the heels of our Delta Centennial in Washington D.C. and sorority meeting that morning and now, the lemon Jello aisle. No. Not this, not now.

But Chrissie wasn't hearing it.

"Don't be ashamed to cry
Let me see you through
'Cause I've seen the dark side too. . ."

I stepped as closely as I could to my cart and braced myself. The first tear leaked out and I tapped my foot harder and harder. It wasn't working.

"When the night falls on you
You don't know what to do
Nothin' you confess

could make me love you less. . . "

That's when I lost it. I turned my back away from where people were and gave in to Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders, and my feelings. Right then, right there in front of the Jello and the allspice.

"I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you

So, if you're mad, get mad
Don't hold it all inside
Come on and talk to me now."

I folded my arm over my face and wept. Cried like I wasn't even up in a supermarket and like I was strewn across my bed like a teenager instead. And Chrissie kept on, oblivious to my meltdown. . .

"Hey, what you got to hide?
I get angry too
Well I'm a lot like you

When you're standing at the crossroads
And don't know which path to choose
Let me come along
'Cause even if you're wrong

I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you

Won't let nobody hurt you

I'll stand by you." 

Thank goodness that, for the duration of that song, no one needed any nutmeg or evaporated milk. Because I truly had a good, full-on ugly cry that was almost bad enough to warrant a clean-up on aisle three.


I gave into it. Hearing the words and feeling each one. Not fighting it and letting the emotion wash over me.

"Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I'll never desert you
I'll stand by you

And when, when the night falls on you, baby
You're feelin' all alone
You won't be on your own

I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I'll never desert you

I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you

Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you
I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you

I'll stand by you
No, no, no, no, no
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I'll never desert you
I'll stand by you
I'll stand by you

I'm glad that Marla didn't double back because, I assure you, it would have been quite awkward.

Seriously? If I catch Chrissie Hynde in a dark alley, she'd better watch out. For real.

My friend Nancy told me that this would happen sometimes. There will be days where Deanna just shows up in between the Kroger-brand contact lens cleaner and the fancy no-rub kind in the green box. Without warning. Yes, she told me this would happen and that I'd eventually get used to it.


See, me? I get that. And even though Chrissie Hynde, who wrote that song, is with The Pretenders, I'm no pretender. No, I am not. When you knew and loved someone like Deanna, there doesn't have to be any pretending. And there is no pretending now. She left behind so much joy that we don't have to pretend things were good. Because they were.

But that doesn't make the missing her part less real.


I think that song made me cry so hard because not only do I miss her, but those lyrics--"I'll stand by you"-- ring so true of our relationship. And not just mine with her. The one she had with all of her siblings, with my sons, and even with Harry and Fran. It was how she was with her friends, with her students, with her sorority sisters, and anyone who was dear to her. No matter what, Deanna was one that would stand by you and bend over backward to let nobody hurt you on her watch.

So, yeah. Some part of hearing that song felt like she really was there on that aisle telling me not to worry because she's still standing by me. I mean that. So I wanted to hug her and thank her and tell her how glad I am that she always did when she was here in the flesh. That she stood by me and stood behind Harry, too. That she understood my Isaiah and could rein in Zachary. That she always encouraged me to try things and told me not to worry and reminded me that things would be okay. It was true. For as long as I could remember, she always stood by me and let nobody hurt me, at least if she could help it.


So.  I had a good cry up in my friendly neighborhood Kroger today next to the Jello. Sure did. And then I politely dabbed my eyes clean, paid for my groceries, and headed out to my car like it wasn't nothin'.

And you know what? I felt good. Good knowing that, even still, Deanna is with me. . . . and standing by me. Always, always, always.

Happy Saturday.

And for your ugly-crying pleasure and for that of all Kroger shoppers, Ms. Chrissie Hynde sings the song she penned and recorded with The Pretenders. (All as part part of a plot to make me destroy my mascara and lose cool points in the spice aisle a decade later.)

Interesting random factoid: Turns out that Chrissie Hynde and I share the same birthday--September 7. Why thank you for that, Wikipedia. (I guess I'll let her off the hook if I catch her in that alley now that I know that.)


  1. And that's why I put my money on rock'n'roll baby. It's real and it is so there when you need it. Even in the Kroger. Holding your hand.
    I know.

  2. One of my all-time favorite Pretenders songs. Always make me well up a bit.

  3. Its the little things that can get you, unexpected like that. I'm glad you felt better, and I hope you make that lemon cake and put all your love in it too.

  4. Glad you wrote this on a weekend & not while I was at work. Who knows why I woke up at 4:16am and decided to read your blog? Well, I'm thoroughly cried out for the moment... I should be able to fall back asleep quickly.

    I love you, Les Miz (that makes me laugh!)


  5. It is the joy that makes it even more real..and sometimes harder for a while. I did have to laugh though at the freedom of the grocery store...when I had little ones I would sometimes just wander the aisles feeling like I was just out of prison for a bit...and when I was in a Whole Foods it felt like this how heaven would be...ha!

  6. Deanna is with you. Yes she is.

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  7. I've had moments like these pretty consistently since my Father died in 2001. And I consider it quite normal.

  8. All so normal... and quite beautiful, really. At least that's how I see it. Now, the next step is to prepare yourself for the Lucy Ricardo cry should 'it' pop up in aisle 3.

    Sending love and hugs. : )

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I wasn't "signed in" so I don't think my comment was published. Trying again...

    First, I'm behind the times a bit. I banned myself from reading blogs for awhile since I was working on my own writing. I've been trying to catch up though.

    I'm so so sorry to read that your sister has passed. Your entry today reminded me of the first year or so after my son died. I dreaded going to the grocery store. So many products that he had loved would seem to just "jump" out and I'd lose it - or come close. It's so hard, this journey called life.

    God bless you and your family, dear lady. Deanna will always be with you and she just might remind you of that at the most unexpected times. Praying for peace and comfort for you all.


  11. Why is it always cake? My co-worker friend, Maria, lost her auntie just before the holidays. Maria's auntie raised her after her own mother died. It was losing her mother a second time. A few days before Thanksgiving she and I sat weeping in the staircase while she was trying to figure out if it was too soon to bake her aunties coca cola cake for Thanksgiving. The next Monday she told me that she and her cousins baked the cake in her auntie's kitchen. I'm sure there were tears of love in that cake.

    Anyway, just a hint. Sometimes it helps to look up and stare into a light to stop s sudden flow of tears.

    My prayers are still with you.

  12. Right before i read this I wondered "How is Dr.M doing? She must be missing her sister".
    Sometimes a good cry helps the heart heal- even if just a little bit.

  13. From the deck of the Poop,
    Dr K.D. You shared this blog with me before I actually read it. Now I'm sitting here at 5:30 AM PST, a total mess, wiping my eyes and blowing my nose as I read what you had already told me. My problem is that as I read this blog, I was thinking about running into Mrs. Boone in Costco. Had not seen Mrs. Boone in a couple of years and she of course had heard about Deanna and along with the condolences wanted to know "if she had been sick?" I go into my canned speech, " No, she had gone to work the day before, and she picked up her sister's two little boys from school and took them home and went over their homework with them. Well on that day, Kimberly got a call that the boys hadn't been picked up. Of courea red flags went up because that's not Deanna. Kimberly called her mom, who lived near Deanna. When her mom got to her house she saw Deanna's car in the driveway! Kimberly told her mom to call 911. ......" As I talked my mind fast forwarded to the part about being on the phone with my wife and hearing the police officer say to Deanna's mom, "we found her inside and she's deceased". I knew I couldn't even get through a truncated version of that part without losing it right there in the open isles of Costco. So with a quivering voice I asked about her son and changed the subject. Mrs. Boone picked up the quiver and didn't press me. There are some things that I can talk about but that's not one of them.

    JoLai, I understand!



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