Romeo and Juliet: A Fibrotown Fable (II)

Posted on August 18, 2010

Fibrotown is a place of opposites. Like many country towns, it is a holding station for the young and the old. The middle is not as well represented. Young love tends to be very young. Old love tends to be heartbreaking.

The checkout at the supermarket is the last place you expect to end up in tears. Unless you’re not in one of those confectionery-free zones and you’re with a two-year-old. But who does that to themselves?

Today, Mr3 and I made a quick dash through the aisles before 9am – we had a park-date to make. Precision shopping over with, I went in search of a checkout. When I spotted one of what Mr3 calls ‘The Ladies’ – those middle-aged women of extreme competence who make the checkout experience a complete pleasure through their sheer scanning skill – we made a beeline for her line. I don’t know her name. We chat about our lives but, even though her work requires that she wears a name tag, I would never presume to use her name without introductions. Respect.

The gentleman in front of us was elderly. A quick scan of his shopping trolley confirmed he lived alone. Five packets of cream biscuits, baked beans, meals for one. She began the scanning, blip, blip, blip, and asked him how he was. There was history, you could tell, from her tone of voice. They weren’t on first-name basis either, but he sought out her checkout, as I did.

When she asked her question, he started to cry. Without asking, I knew that he was recently bereft. That the woman who’d spent a lifetime telling him that two cream biscuits in one sitting were enough, was gone. The transaction took a while. But I didn’t mind. There are some things that take time.

When he’d gone, picking up his few bags of shopping and departing, tears still in his eyes, she turned to me. Her eyes were red-rimmed, tear-filled. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t rush him.”

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “Neither could I.” Tears stung my own eyes. I wanted to take that poor, lonely man home for a cup of tea.

His wife had recently died, she explained. Every time he came in to do the shopping on his own, he cried. She’d always done the shopping. Made his tea. Dragged him out to visit people. Without her, he was adrift.

“It’s so important to stay connected,” said my checkout friend.

I don’t know the love story of that man and his wife. All I saw was the epilogue. Romeo without his Juliet.

It’s heartbreaking at any age.


  1. Penny

    Oh. My heart is sad. This is a bit full on, but I was with my grandmother when she died. She kept calling out for my grandfather who had passed away only months before. And I swear this is true, she held out her hand to ‘nothing’ reaching past me, smiled and breathed her last breath. He had come to get her, I am sure of it. They had been together for 60 years. Love that love.

  2. cathy@home

    what a sad but lovely story.

  3. Voluptacon

    Oh, what a beautiful, yet heartbreaking story.
    Now I want to go and make him a cuppa too. x

  4. Shelley @ My Shoebox Life

    Oh gosh. When I started reading this I thought it was going to be the post you wrote about the young couple with a child in a pram, that has stuck in my mind ever since. Now this one will too. I hope this man has been cared for through his grief and that somebody is making him cups of tea. x

  5. A Farmer's Wife

    There is something so innately precious about a love that has lasted that long. Anyone can fall in love. Staying in love for a lifetime is so much harder. Beautiful post.

    Take care.

  6. tinsenpup

    Oh, that’s just too sad. Poor man. It’s such an awful thought, isn’t it?

  7. Seana Smith

    There’s so much sadness in this post – beautifully written – but tempered with the warmth of that lovely checkout lady.

    This would be my husband, I hate to say.

    Bereavement is so hard, but cannot and must not be escaped. as my Mr5 often says; ‘It’s alright to be sad.’

  8. Diminishing Lucy

    Oh Al. Before I even clicked, I knew it would be this one.

    It is so true, that love belongs to everyone, not just the young.

    My mother marks twenty years a widow today. Her grief is as sharp today as it was then – a fact I forget too often.

    Thank you for taking part in the Weekend Rewind.


  9. Diminishing Lucy

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Cath

    I should have known what I was getting myself in for reading your Weekend Rewind description. I hope that my love for hubby would still be this strong when we are elderly… and that we have the support of a community to get us through when one is no longer here.

  11. Maxabella

    I loved this fable. x

  12. Giving Back Girl

    Oh that is truly gorgeous, I can see him too. I hope that since August, he is gently finding a new version of his old life. Gotta find my hubby for a hug now. Popping by from the Rewind x

  13. TriGirl

    That really makes me want to cry. But it’s so touching that you live in a town where it’s small enough to have support from your community.

  14. LBDDiaries

    You made me cry. Such a powerful post. Everyone should be as kind and thoughtful as the checkout lady was. Thank you for sharing this.

  15. Anne

    That’s beautiful and so touching. I’ve got tears in my eyes.

  16. Mindy

    Beautifully touching. So poignant. Thank you.

  17. @jencull (jen)

    Awww, so sad and yet such a lovely story of how people can be kind to strangers and the world is a kind and caring place most of the time. Jen

  18. geekymummy

    Sad and beautiful. Have had a week of hard news, sick family and friends. Your post felt appropriate to my week, and made me cry. In a good way.

  19. Loz

    It’s the hidden stories that put our own into context – thanks for sharing:)

  20. Jessica

    I have goosebumps, what a beautiful story and you told it so well. I just want to go do his grocery shopping for him so he does not have to experience the pain.

  21. kathleen

    This was lovely in its telling..though it was heart wrenching..the connecting of the gentleman, the checker and you..three different worlds offering what they can..that is uplifting…BTW-I feel much the same way about name tags..I followed over from Jens blog gems

  22. jazzygal

    Hi there, visiting through Blog Gems.

    What a sweet tale beautifully told. The poor man. Realy shows the importance of community and the local shops 😉

    x Jazzy

  23. Kelloggsville

    oh, that is so sad and how apt that you pick the Notebook picture. Gosh, I was ok but now I’ve started to cry. I wonder how he is doing now *sigh* so close to Christmas and first without her, so sad.

  24. livinglifeasme

    I’ve been trying to get to this post all day. Thanks for the last reminder. Oh that is so sad. Old people feel the loss of their partner so deeply. I’m so sad thinking about him. I want to have him over for tea too. 🙁

  25. Maria Tedeschi

    I echo Megan’s comment. My grandmother died and within 8 weeks my grandfather died too.

    It seems you can die from a broken heart.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  26. magicgardencymru

    I just found this via a Twitter link from the lovely @katheastman. Kath cried and so did I. A beautiful post. I am going to follow your blog. I love your writing .

  27. Zoey @ Good Goog

    Heartbreaking. But also lovely that he was around people who gave him the time. That would have been a whole other level of heartbreak.

  28. fifi_labelle1

    Love is our best emotion – and to give it and recieve it are a true blessing. Too often we only realize this after the special people in our lives are gone. Life is so short and can be taken away so quickly at any age..having experienced a terrible family loss I am so aware of this and make it ‘an absolute’ to tell those around me how much I love them and need them….xxx

  29. Lisa Heidke

    For Goodness Sake! I don’t need tears in the middle of the day – there are enough of them at night when my kids are home and driving me crazy!
    Lovely, heartwrenching piece, Al.
    Thank you.

  30. Kallie

    Such a beautiful post about a poignant moment…

    I can recall similar things happening to me after my eldest son died. Small things trigger memories that trigger the feeling of loss all over again. It hurts…

    I hope he finds the day when the small things trigger smiles of remembrance instead the tears of loss.

  31. life in a pink fibro

    Thank you all for your comments. We always think of love as being a young person’s game, don’t we? It seems that everyone has witnessed the other end as well. I guess it helps us to remember what’s important.

    PS: To those who asked, Mr3 sang Twinkle, Twinkle throughout the entire event. Very cheerfully, and loudly, despite my best shushing. Life, huh?

  32. Seraphim

    I just told your sister how I’d put my mascara on and I came over to read your post and now it’s everywhere.
    Please God don’t let me be lonely and old

  33. Kath

    I’m in tears having read this post. So sad and heartbreaking but you captured it beautifully.

  34. Megan

    The way you wrote that was so beautiful. It’s heartbreaking and cruel when people who love each other so much have to be separated. Last year when my Grandad passed away, Nanna was just lost. She didn’t want to talk to anyone (very unlike her!) and she promised she’d be gone within 3 months. And she was – almost to the day. After more than 60 years together, life just wasn’t work living without him.

    I’m crying now…

  35. Fleur

    What a wonderful, but sad, story. I loved you last line and am praying for that man.

  36. kittykitty

    So sad, and so beautifully written. Reminds me of my grandpa after my grandma died- a ship without his rudder.
    It shames me to think about how our communities forget about the elderly.

  37. Maxabella

    The cream biscuits spoke volumes. I would have been bawling and, you know me, he would have been booked in for a Tuesday cuppa at mine.

    A sad tale in every old fella who has lost his anchor.

  38. PinkPatentMaryJanes

    Bawling! What a beautifully heartbreaking story x

  39. Kez

    That made me cry. It was particularly poignant because my mil has aggressive brain cancer and I can just see my FIL in the description of the widowed man 🙁

  40. Deer Baby

    What are you trying to do to me?

    That was heartbreaking. I won’t stop thinking about him.

    Beautifully written though.

  41. Tricia Rose

    That’s the real love story isn’t it, the quiet part that means everything.

    What did Mr3 make of it? Was he owl-eyed and attentive, or did it pass him by? I remember my brother aged about six, silently slipping next to a bereaved neighbour he didn’t know that well, and holding her hand just because she was sad.

    Now I’m crying!

  42. Susan

    I love these kind of love stories from the front lines. Real stuff that is happening quietly all around us. Beautifully written.

  43. Lulu and the Locket

    that is soo touching, really! I can only imagine how lost he must feel without her. Very apt film choice to illustrate this sentiment. When I showed my parents this movie, my dad cried and he nevers cries in movies. My parent’s have a very fusional relationship like that, they do everything together! x

  44. Purple_cath

    Felt the lump forming in my throat. How sad. Thank you for highlighting the simple things

  45. Emma

    Tears here too…

  46. Maybe Tomorrow I'll be a Better Mother

    Oh, now I’ve got tears in my eyes!! That is a very sweet story. Thanks for sharing and for writing it so eloquently.

  47. Lucy

    Oh Al. Now you have me in tears. xx

  48. gigdiary

    beautifully written…

  49. Kylie L

    Beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful. xxx

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