Almost every day, I find myself at the mall. Compulsive shopper? Hardly. I'm there because my dad has to walk. After triple bypass surgery in October, his recovery depends on it. I'm his chauffeur until eight weeks post-op.
Every day, it's the same. We begin our laps outside JCPenney, turn right toward Sears, then pass Old Navy as we head toward Macy's at the opposite end. After about three laps, we find a bench before going around another two or three times. On our "forced marches," as my dad says with a twinkle in his eye, we see the same people. The old guy fast asleep in a chair over his crossword puzzle, the out-of-a-movie cleaning lady with her hair pulled to the top of an expressionless face, the Hickory Farms salesgirl offering free samples, the Bath Fitter salesman pacing in circles around his display. We see walkers, grandfathers wheeling strollers, security guards walking their beats, and sometimes, older couples strolling arm in arm. We wonder about the stories behind the people we see.
On Veteran's Day, after our laps, we went to Applebee's, also at the mall. Veterans received a free meal that day. Dad served in the Navy on the USS Tarawa in the late 1950s. As we entered the restaurant, the Stars and Stripes graced the window. Five flags hung on the wall representing the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched an elderly veteran hobble in with a cane. Others, filled with pride and memories, crowded the lobby. The manager went from table to table to thank them for their service. I felt proud to be there with my dad.
tend to be on the quiet side, but in between the comfortable silences on our route, he tells me my sister called or a friend stopped by with meatballs and
pasta. I describe my latest writing project and update him on my kids.
Today, as we sat on a bench, he talked about missing my mom and the upcoming holidays without her. I squeezed
his hand as emotion choked us both.
Dad begins his cardiac rehab on Monday, so our days at the mall are numbered, but they hold a special place in my heart - and I think in Dad's, too. Last week, he said, "Maybe after I'm driving again, we can meet at the mall to walk." Maybe we can.
It seems to me that real life is a little like our time at the mall. We go by the same places and see the same people every day. Sometimes we find a special event to enjoy or we meet a new friend. As our life stories intersect with the stories of those around us, I hope we will make a difference . . . "faithfully administering God's grace" (1 Peter 4:10).