Slowly, Slowly

Sometimes kindness just involves slowing down.

Eileen Sanders is a pseudonym

Why, oh, why, I think, does he have to take so long over a little shopping? Why does he have to read every label, so carefully scan the different brands of milk and orange juice, ponder—the precious minutes ticking away—every piece of fruit in the bins?

Resentfully I follow my grandfather’s unsteady, slow steps, pushing the grocery cart for him up one aisle and down the other, and thinking of all the things I should be doing on my one day off from the hospital.

I want so badly to be home, cleaning the little apartment until it shines like a jewel. I want to plan tonight’s special dinner, special because Pete, my husband of four months, and I will eat it together for a change. Since he works days and I work evenings, we don’t have the chance to eat together very often. But Granddad has no one but me, I remind myself. It’s my duty to help him.

Slowly I trail after Granddad, pretending to show an interest in the food he is buying, knowing that he is hoping I will stay over for lunch.

“It’s so nice in the backyard now, before the summer’s heat begins,” the old voice assures me. “We’ll have a salad and just sit for a while, in silence, and listen to the birds.”

I turn away. “I can’t, Granddad. I have too much to do.” I do not look at him. I do not want to see his disappointment.

Anyway, the shopping is half over now. I will soon be free. Unfortunately, there are too many people he knows. I find myself slowing down a little. What’s the use? He knows everyone, it seems, and must say a word or two to them all. And, of course, he is eternally fascinated by children, and they by him. They look at his seams and wrinkles with big, solemn eyes and accept him with wide, confiding grins. Then they look at me, and their smiles vanish.

A little boy barges into him, almost knocking him down. There is a note of anxiety and fear in the voice that yells, “Hey, Dad, where are ya, Dad?”

And Granddad says soothingly, “Slowly, slowly—everything will be all right.” Taking the little boy’s hand, he walks with sure and proud steps up the aisle, leaving me standing there watching.

“Don’t be in such a hurry. Go slowly, slowly—and everything will be all right.”

The words echo in my mind. How many times had I heard them? When I fell and scraped a knee, when I learned to ride a bike, when I learned to swim, to skate . . .

I stand there waiting, but patiently now, and though my smile is a little blurred, it is still a smile.

At the checkout stand I say, “I think I’ll take you up on that offer of lunch, Granddad. And I’d like to spend the afternoon too, if it’s OK.”

“Why, sure, honey, sure—but what about all those things you have to do? You don’t have to stay just because of me, you know.” The blue eyes look anxiously into mine.

“There is no hurry,” I say. “Everything will be all right.”

I take Granddad’s arm, and we begin to walk slowly out of the store. It’s nice, walking slow. A soft spring breeze is blowing outside. I feel it on my cheeks, tousling my hair. Was it blowing before? I see daffodils blowing in the wind, and tulips. I think, Thank You, God, for giving me Granddad.