I interrupt my writing time to take my 92 year old father-in-law (FIL) and 83 year old mother-in-law (MIL) shopping. My FIL uses a walker and shuffles at a snail’s pace. My MIL moves almost as slow.

I must constantly remind myself Patience, Grasshopper, for one day you will need assistance, too.

We start at the bank, where my FIL and I chat in the car until my MIL returns. Then we drive to the health food store and wait some more. Every time I have to help one of them in and out of the vehicle, it’s pure agony. We’ve only been gone an hour, and we still haven’t reached our main destination.

At Wal-Mart, I park beside the front entrance so my in-laws won’t have so far to walk. I almost – almost – leave the car running and the keys in the ignition. At the very last moment, something tells me to grab the keys and I pocket them. By the time I get around to the passenger side, my FIL has locked himself in the vehicle and can’t figure out how to get out.

After unloading my passengers, I park the vehicle and hurry inside. My MIL is watching for me and the moment she sees me, she races off at a surprisingly fast clip. My FIL decides this is the perfect opportunity to do his own grocery shopping. Soon my arms are filled with cereal and wagon wheels and bananas and bread.

I find a cart and dump the groceries in, but by now my FIL misses his wife. We spot her snow white hair on the opposite side of the store and we start our long journey toward her – shuffling forward inch by inch. Half way to our destination, my MIL disappears up an aisle. By the time we reach the spot where we’ve last seen her, she’s gone.

We search the aisles and finally find her, only to have her race off again. By the time we’ve made a complete circle around the store, we’re both exhausted and agree that it’s time to sit down at the nearby fast food joint.

But the moment we have our coffee and juice in hand, my MIL appears. Strangely, the items in her cart are not bagged, but since she’s headed off to buy herself a coffee, I assume she’s finished shopping and has run her items through the cash register.

We finish our refreshments, which means I’m nearly home-free, and now all we have left is one quick stop at the pharmacy. Then my MIL remembers a few more items she has to pick up. And oh yeah, she still needs to pay for her purchases.

It takes us three and a half hours to do what would normally take me less than an hour. I smile, silently thank my Dad for sharing his patience gene with me, and sit back to wait.

Three and a half precious hours. As far as time goes, it’s a drop in the bucket of my life. My in-laws won’t be here forever. I remind myself Patience, Grasshopper, for one day you will need assistance, too.

Posted on January 25, 2012, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Sheila,
    This is not the first time I’ve read of your patience with your family, extended or otherwise. You are a wonderful daughter and daughter-in-law and a wonderful example for all of us!

    I am not as patient as you and it is something I strive to work on every day. I now have a new mantra: “Patience Grasshopper!” Love it!

  2. You’ll be rewarded in heaven one day girl. Patience is a virtue I wasn’t blessed with so I’m always in awe of those who have it. 😉

  3. I am not at all surprised that this is how you are with your in-laws. You have always appeared to be a very generous and kind person. I can see that through your posts and comments, Sheila. I know exactly how you feel about your older relatives. My younger sisters were so very impatient with my mother and she had Alzheimer’s disease and couldn’t help that she “disremembered” everything and repeated things a million times. I would always tell my older sisters that it was kind of cool because Mom would get so excited again and again about something I would tell her. I was able to enjoy my little tidbits of information over and over with her as if for the first time. Positive thinking. And patience.

  4. May the gods bless your loving heart. Dare I suggest this is a perfect time for some people watching? 🙂
    I can actually identify with your fil. Whenever I go shopping with my partner she is like a will-o-the-wisp. The girl is over six feet in her boots, yet she slips away with the speed and stealth of a hunting tigress. sigh
    Thanks for sharing your day, and for being patient with us old folks. 🙂

  5. You are an angel here on earth Sheila. thank heavens for people like you. I would be tearing my hair out and putting off the next trip. When my kids were teenagers and wanted something, if I felt it was beyond the normal expectancy of mom, I’d do it and tell them they owed me rides in my wheelchair when I was old. 3 rides, 10 or 2…whatever I felt the task warranted.

    it was a good family joke except now, my daughter will do something for me and laughingly tell me “MOm, that’s 3 less rides I owe you.”

    hopefully there will still be a ride or two when I need it.

    My mom has alzheimer’s disease and she doesn’t leave her apartment much anymore. so I’m glad you have these two people to share your life.

  6. This is a wonderful post, Sheila! I went through a difficult period taking care of Roy’s late mother whose stroke brought on a form of dementia. And I totally agree with your perspective. If we can’t take time to be kind to each other, what good is anything else.

  7. Very kind of you to do this. True, we will all need this type of help one day. Sometimes, as a fairly new parent, I wonder what patient my parents must have had for me as a kid. It makes me stop and relax a bit. Time with family is typically well spent.

  8. I can only hope and dream to have a ‘Sheila’ when I reach those ages! I always enjoy spending time with my older relatives. Yea, they can be frustratingly slow sometimes, but they are such a blessing to still have in our lives. You have a kind and wonderful heart to give up your time for them!

  9. You are such a good hearted person Sheila. It’s true, that is precious time with them and you should enjoy every moment while you can. Don’t think of it as a shopping trip but as an adventure with the folks. 😀

  10. Sheila, You have a very kind and patient heart!!! 🙂

  11. Bless you, Sheila! There are so many people out there who don’t know what it means to be part of a family. It’s not about the taking, but the giving, too. 🙂

  12. Sheila, what can I say that has not already been said and so well? What you do is carefully pace your life in small pockets of time that your family will always cherish. For you each day is another time to weigh and measure. How perfectly wonderful that is 🙂

  13. Sheila, you are the heart of your family, a fact that is clearer post by post. Your in-laws are lucky to have you.

    As long as you’re around to walk at the speed of FIL’s walker, MIL is free to race around the store. And does she!

    I’d love to read this scene in one of your stories.

  14. I didn’t expect all these lovely words from everyone’ but thank you so much. Truthfully, I’m not the heart of my family, I just talk about my experiences with them a lot. 🙂

    Thanks everyone for stopping in today. I enjoyed recapping my day with my in-laws and sharing them with you all.

  15. Aw, I love this post! What a great reminder to us all that someday, we’re going to need others to be patient with us. It helps me to think of my grandparents, who have been gone awhile now. How would I want others to treat them…and then I try to see their faces when an elderly person needs help. 🙂

  16. Oh Sheila, I’ve already been there, done that my dear. It’s a lot of work and patience. But now they’re gone and we miss them terribly. So what can I say. I’d take the crazy, slow, frustrating days with them anytime because they’re not with us for that long. Hang in there Sheila! 🙂

  17. What a great DIL you are! And with in-laws! Your patience and kind regard for them is wonderful!
    There is no way my kids will have that kind of patience with me when the time comes. they don’t have patience now!

    I find I’m patient with my Mom who also uses a walker. But now that she’s 88, I know the days she has left are counting down and I don’t want to miss one minute of time with her grumbling about her slow pace. Now, if it were my former in-laws, it would be a different story. 🙂

  18. So true… My husband’s father had a stroke several years back and when he comes to visit, we go to the grocery store, ride together to drop the kids to school, pick them back up… Walking and talking takes a tremendous amount of effort for him but the wait is worth it. 🙂

    Time is relevant, isn’t it? I mean, one’s perspective can change day to day, month to month, year to year.

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