The Commissary Roadblock

The Commissary Roadblock

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

The Commissary Roadblock

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.

Faith Baldwin

It was just another harried Wednesday afternoon trip to the commissary. My husband was off teaching young men to fly. My daughters went about their daily activities knowing I would return to them at the appointed time, bearing, among other things, their favorite fruit snacks, frozen pizza and all the little extras that never had to be written down on a grocery list. My grocery list, by the way, was in my sixteen-month-old daughter’s mouth, and I was lamenting the fact that the next four aisles of needed items would have to come from memory.

I was turning onto the hygiene/baby aisle while extracting the last of my list out of my daughter’s mouth when I nearly ran over an old man. He clearly had no appreciation for the fact that I had forty-five minutes left to finish the grocery shopping, pick upmy four-year-old from tumbling class and get to school, where my twelve-year-old and her carpool mates would be waiting.

The man was standing in front of the soap selection, staring blankly as if he’d never had to choose a bar of soap in his life. I was ready to bark an order at him when I realized there was a tear on his face. Instantly, this grocery-aisle roadblock transformed into a human.

“Can I help you find something?” I asked. He hesitated, and then told me he was looking for soap.

“Any one in particular?” I continued.

“Well, I’m trying to find my wife’s brand of soap.” I was about to lend him my cell phone so he could call her when he said, “She died a year ago, and I just want to smell her again.”

Chills ran down my spine. I don’t think the twenty-two-thousand pound mother of all bombs could have had the same impact. As tears welled up in my eyes, my half-eaten grocery list didn’t seem so important. Neither did fruit snacks or frozen pizza. I spent the remainder of my time in the commissary that day listening to a man tell the story of how important his wife was to him—and how she took care of their children while he fought for our country.

My life was forever changed that day.

Sometimes the monotony of laundry, housecleaning, grocery shopping and taxi driving leave military wives feeling empty—the kind of emptiness that is rarely fulfilled when our husbands don’t want to or can’t talk about work. We need to be reminded, at times, of the important role we fill for our family and for our country. Every time my husband comes home too late or leaves before the crack of dawn, I try to remember the sense of importance I felt in the commissary.

Even a retired, decorated World War II pilot who served in missions to protect Americans needed the protection of the woman who served him at home.

Paige Anderson Swiney

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