This evening I bought three boxes of bite size Post Shredded Whole Wheat and two curtain rods in Walmart and I feel sullied.
It was on my way home from visiting my mom in her assisted living in New Jersey – a two-hour trip one-way. She was at the table napping in front of a magazine when I arrived, but one of the caretakers who likes to make me feel that my trip hasn’t been in vain, badgered her (but in a gentle way) until she lifted her head from her chin, opened her eyes, and together they sang a few bars of My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean and Cielto Lindo in Spanish. My mom never knew Cielto Lindo or any Spanish when she was who she was. I find it interesting that she has learned something new. She said hi to me and gave me a smile, and went back to sleep.
When my mom isn’t too deep into her own thoughts or too sleepy, she recognizes me and that makes me feel good, but I would have been okay going home without connecting with her. She’s 96 and she is tired. I have no idea what goes on in her mind. She has started to mumble when she is half-asleep. She might mention her oldest grandchild by name, or my father, but there is usually no context to her mumblings, and I miss most of the words if they are words.
Often when I visit the house is full of chatter. Her housemates talk to themselves, one speaks on an imaginary phone she holds to her ear, some talk to baby dolls. They are important conversations but only one-sided. They have their own languages and sometimes they talk to me, expecting an answer. I comprehend nothing except their desire to communicate. I try to respond but feel very inadequate. There is one man with the most beautiful smile and brightest eyes who speaks bubbly words of nothingness. What was he like when he was whole, and what makes him so happy now?
Why should my mom wake up to smile at me? I lowered my expectations a long time ago. My visits are opportunities for me to see how she is, which means is her color good, has she slipped further into her illness, is she in pain, is she miserable, does she look comfortable and peaceful, does she need anything, and we hold hands. If we talk, it is for a few minutes and then she drifts off.
When I left, I was already in my “why?” state of mind.
My plan was to stop at the bank and Lowe’s and to pick up cereal. Lowe’s had the paint but not the curtain rods. I don’t usually shop at Walmart. It’s too big, too much a bully, too destructive, but it was on my way out of the big box complex, and it would have everything I still needed. Just one stop on the way home instead of two stops in the other direction was a good idea.
The parking lot was very crowded. I cringed looking for a space and once again entering the store. Memories of my husband who would come home from errands excited by the tattooed ladies in the Walmart in Plymouth, New Hampshire made me smile. I stood on tiptoes and stretched to reach the three boxes of shredded wheat that were on the top shelf — so far back and high that I had to coax the last two forward by knocking them down with the first. Obviously PSWW is not a big seller. The price was nice, but it made me even more uncomfortable with my lack of resolve. It is so easy to slip into abetting the enemy.
PSWW is the only “just cereal” that I have found, even on health food shelves. It has nothing added – no sugar, no honey, no nuts, salt, dried fruit, cinnamon, additives. The back of the box proudly shouts out that Post shredded wheat has “an ingredient list that is so good, we have nothing to hide.” Why does this statement madden me instead of making me happy? I’ve researched it and it seems to be true. It’s not organic, but I want a “NO GMO INGREDIENTS” label, and no BHT, and more choices.
My body was quickly moving to rant mode, and eventually my thoughts caught up and settled on frankenfish; over-processed flour; chemical-laden apples ripening in boxcars; aspartame in milk; misuse of antibiotics; chicken breasts with no bodies, heads or feet lined up on shelves in a dark warehouse, hooked up to feeding tubes. I just don’t understand an agricultural-industrial complex that arrogantly tries to convince consumers they have no right to know what they are putting into their bodies. Individuals run agribusiness. Their families eat food, drink water, and breathe air. How can they greedily produce foods that negatively effect their children’s bodies and their children’s environment? How do they and the politicians who support them twist the reality which is that they are destroying the agricultural diversity and sustainability of our planet and the integrity of our food supply into the fantasy that they are graciously feeding the world?
My son, the one who works with food and public health, and I talk a lot about the world’s food supply. He has convinced me that a new round of make-millions-while-crippling-life-as-we-know-it will belong to the medical-industrial complex. They will discover ways to alter our bodies so that we can adapt to our unnatural diets, and of course we will pay with our health and our money to fix their “mistakes.” Maybe we already are on this path; there certainly are enough pills and medical procedures that help us cope with our debilitated digestive systems and allergies and ballooning numbers of ill.
One neighbor always tells me that we have choices. We can shop at natural food stores, grow our own vegetables, buy at local farms, prepare from scratch. These choices are still very limited and they take research and energy, commitment and time. They are luxuries not available to those who are struggling. They are not concerns of the hungry.
There is more to life than shopping for food.
Something new to think about: