There is always a story

If you pay attention to my twitter feed, you may have noticed the following tweet: Old man in line in front of me @ super1 is buying four 4packs of Widmer Bros IPA & 4 big jugs of burgandy wine. Coolest old man ever.

There has to be more to it than that, right?

There is.

When I go to the grocery store, I am a man on a mission. In and out as quickly as possible. I had a two item list - brown gravy mix and potatoes - simple, quick, and easy. Except I wasn't paying attention to anything that might be lurking around the corner of the medicine isle.

That is where an old man almost ran me over with his shopping cart. He chuckled with a warmth that only comes with age and excused himself. I didn't mind as it was partially my fault - I should have been more observant.

"No worries," I said.

He smiled and nodded in acquiescence then shuffled his way to the front of the store. Him manner and dress was the elderly stereotype: arched convex back, shoulders hunched forwards, jowls sagging beyond his chin, wispy silver hair, plaid button down shirt tucked into faded denim, and orthopedic shoes.

But it wasn't his appearance that caught me off guard - it was the contents of his cart. Four bottles of jug wine (roughly four liters each) and four packs of IPA - four bottles in each pack. There may have been other items in with the wine and beer, but they escaped my observation - overshadowed by the epic amounts of alcohol in the old man's shopping cart.

Here is the train of thought that danced through my head from there until I reached the produce isle:

Whoa, that's a lot of booze.
I didn't know old folks could drink that much.
I can't even drink that much.
He is going to be lit up tonight.
It would be hilarious to see him drunk.
I'd bet he's a happy drunk. There's two types of drunks in the world, happy drunks and mean drunks. Mean drunks don't typically last into old age, so he's gotta be a happy drunk.
Is his doctor OK with that much alcohol consumption?
Dang, that is a lot of booze.

My groceries were quickly procured; I made my way to the check out lines and ended up in line behind the old man. As the cashier scanned his beer and took his payment, I pulled out my phone and entered the tweet.

Coolest old man ever. I could have said 'most adorable old man ever,' but that might have gone over Twitter's 140 character limit.

This is a change in me. A previous version of myself would have been quick to judge the man as a lush. I would have condemned him as an irresponsible drunkard. But there was something different this time. I couldn't be critical of him.

Maybe I'm just getting older. Or more forgiving. Or better at showing grace.

Whatever it is that is changing the way I view others, this old guy was cool. There was a contagious smile on his face that couldn't be ignored. He radiated with joy. He paid the cashier, collected his things and turned in a slow gait to the exit and out into the parking lot. I was in awe of, and slightly amused by the amount of alcohol he was carrying out of the store.

Once he was gone, the bagger let out a nervous giggle said, "A guy that age shouldn't drink that much."

She spoke what the younger me would have said. The cashier knew better, she had seen him several times before.

"Most of it is for his wife, I think," she said. "He gets the same thing every time, four bottles of burgundy and four packs of beer."

She had one final observation, "She comes in with him every now and then. They're a cute couple."

That last line sums it up. They're a cute couple. That's what I hope people say of my wife and I 30 years from now. They're a cute couple.

And aside from the copious quantities of alcohol, that's the kind of man I want to be when I grow up. Joyful. Smiling. Radiant. Adorable. If only we could all age so gracefully.

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