The rumble of the old grey electric wheelchair came to a halt and so did my thoughts as to which cheese_ provolone or swiss? Today was my twice a month trip to the dreaded Wal-Mart to get the basics, get out as quick as possible, with just enough time to pick the kids up from school.
As I turned, the man dressed in blue jeans, red shirt, with tubes in his nose, and an oxygen tank on his lap was making his way onto the ground. I started by saying "can I get you something" when he grabbed the pack of velveeta cheese and so began our short yet meaningful encounter.
"I love grilled cheese sandwiches with this here velveeta cheese_it makes the best! But have you ever had a pimento sandwich? Now they are my, my, my...so good. You know I make my own pimento. As a matter of fact, I just made some for Memorial Day. See I have 5 children and they all come over and you know how much I get of it?" He holds up a size with his hand about as big as a golf ball, "that big."My kids take it all home with them."
"Well is that right," I say, "it must be really good if there's never any left."
He smiles and agrees.
"I was in the military stationed in Hawaii and I used to make pimento sandwiches for the family for our Sunday outings. We would go to church then head to the beach with our basket of food afterwards. We didn't go out to eat back then-couldn't afford it-not with 5 kids, you know.
I nod cause' I understand that...
He continues on about the love his family shares between them. His father used to come and visit and when the time came for him to leave, he didn't want to go. "Said that it was because of the love he felt while being in their presence."
His face is wrinkled, his eyes are blue, some grey hair left still, but very well put together. I study his eyes and their sweetness-eagerness even_as he shares with me what he must.
"Never had a health problem til' I turned 70. I'm 74 now but when I turned 70 my heart started giving me trouble. Doctors said I had to have open heart surgery and I never been so scared in all my life. Man, I'm telling you I was so scared.
Went to church and I heard someone say something to me." He said "I looked around and didn't see anyone there. So I knew it was the Lord and he wanted to tell me something. I went down to the altar and began to pray and I heard the Lord say to me..not to be afraid. I wasn't ever going to be alone and I wasn't going to go through the surgery alone."
Now teary eyed, feeling a little awkward as people were trying to maneveur their carts around us. I tried to swallow it down, but couldn't. My eyes burned all the more and I knew how ridiculous I must look tears streaming over cheese. I smiled and shook my head because I knew what he was telling me-it made perfect sense to me.
"Me and Judy grew up together, that's my wife. We didn't know much but we played with our children. When they would come in from school I wouldn't let them watch T.V., no, we were all out in the yard playing."
I once again nodded and smiled in agreement. I married young at the age of 19, Jode 20. He is 35 and I'm 34 now and we didn't know anything then and we only know a little now. But we too have grown up together. The ties that bind are woven deep, entertwined, and so tightly bound.
He thanked me and told me how much he enjoyed talking with me. He was grateful I had listened to what he needed to say but I was ever the more for getting to hear a piece of his life...in the cheese department_at Wal Mart. I don't think I will ever pass that rack of cheese, velveeta cheese, and not think about a man who reminded me of just how much Jesus loves me.
He loves me and he tells me everyday through all sorts of avenues...music, the bible, my husband, but today He chose to tell me through a 74 year old man. I'm so glad I made myself available and didn't continue on in my normal hurried state. Then I would've missed this encounter with a 74 year old man or maybe even an angel.
I wonder if I ever will even really know.....