By Larry McCrady,
Our grandson was spending the weekend with my wife and me. My daughter didn’t send enough diapers for the child’s stay with his grandparents, so, I set off on an errand. After circling the interior of the neighborhood grocery store seven times, I finally found the diapers. My wife asked later why I didn’t ask directions rather than wandering around looking lost. Before I could answer, she quipped, “Oh yeah. You men don’t ask directions, do you?” I reminded her that Lewis and Clark didn’t ask for directions when they walked all the way to California.
Once I found the correct aisle, I quickly realized that the store had stocked enough diapers to cover the bare bottoms of all the babies in the Northern Hemisphere. There were miles of colorfully packaged diapers stacked floor to ceiling, each package labeled with the picture of a cute, smiling baby. The task for me was to find the correctly sized bottom-covers for our little spitter-upper. Good grief! The store had diapers for plumpers and skinnies. It had diapers for tall babies and short babies, and babies destined someday to become honest contributors to society, or even politicians. There were diapers for babies that walk, crawl, run and giggle, and even diapers for teeth-cutting cranky babies.
Moms and Grandmas seem to know diaper sizes by motherly instinct. How many Grandfathers actually change a baby’s diaper? Grandpas suddenly find it necessary to paint the house or wash the car the moment a baby’s diaper needs changing. The last diaper I changed was cloth and pinned to my firstborn. By the time I got the fabric tucked and secured, the poor kid’s lower half looked like it was wearing a giant marshmallow with leg holes.
My wife wrote the baby’s diaper size on a piece of notepaper. I thrust the note into my pants pocket. I don’t know what happened to the note. It was in my pocket when I left the house. It wasn’t in my pocket when, twenty minutes later, I stood alone and vulnerable facing two thousand colorfully wrapped packages of diapers in the middle of the grocery store. I searched each of my pockets. I pulled my pockets inside out. I ran my fingers along the bottom seam of each pocket thinking that maybe there was a hole in the fabric and the note may have passed through the hole and fallen down my pant leg. No note. I searched my socks. I searched the entire contents of my wallet where I found three years of expired fishing licenses, six business cards from people I can’t remember, and a receipt from the last time I rented a movie over at Blockbuster in 1995. A pack of pedigreed bloodhounds couldn’t find that note.
There is an advantage to being a clueless man in the grocery store. Some women shoppers seem to sense his vulnerability around baby diapers and other products not necessarily familiar to him. They quickly realize that this fool male doesn’t have any idea where to find what he came for, and oftentimes, they offer to help. Shopping ignorance paid off the time my wife telephoned the office instructing me to pick up some oregano at the grocery store on the way home from work.
“Yeah, sure, like I’d know where to find oregano, or more importantly, what it even looks like,” I thought. I had no idea if oregano is sold in bunches like carrots; in loaves like bread, or canned like pork ‘n beans. I’m very much kitchen and grocery store challenged. I’ll admit it. My career kept me in a hospital office, not at home exploring child rearing strategies. The development of homemaking and culinary techniques passed me by. Luckily, I ran into a nurse friend in the store. She explained that fresh oregano is in the produce section and dried oregano is stocked with herbs and spices in aisle three. Knowing that I had to show up at home with some kind of oregano, I bought from both produce and spices. I’m not stupid.
A pleasant woman in the diaper aisle asked the size of my grandson. I tried to explain that he’s about this tall when he stands up and he only stands up for a minute while hanging onto the coffee table, but mostly he just crawls. The woman stated that diapers are sometimes sized to a baby’s age. I thought that was odd since babies can be the same age and still have different sized bottoms. I informed the nice woman that when my friend Arlie’s wife, Elmo Mae, birthed her twins, the first one was such a tiny little thing they misplaced it three times after bringing it home. Arlie said he’d used fish bait bigger than the first twin. The second twin was the size of a truck tire and big enough to hunt bears with a fly swatter. The helpful woman said she didn’t know Arlie and Elmo Mae.
I thanked the kind stranger for her assistance. I retrieved two packages from the shelf, one package sized to fit crawling babies that slobber all over your carpet, and the second package sized to fit toddlers that get finger prints all over your television screen. I must have made the right decision because I never heard another word about it. I did have to explain to my wife why it took an hour and a half to run to the store for diapers.
Larry McCrady, 65-year-old father of a son and daughter, and grandfather to three wonderful boys. Thrust into grandparenting with no previous experience or instruction; Larry documents the humor-and surprise-that often accompanies the blessing of grandchildren. Retired manager of clinical engineering departments for two major hospitals in Tucson, Arizona; Larry now resides with his wife in Scottsdale.