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Sharon Randall: Family feuds and Walmart generators

By Sharon Randall

People say things happen for a reason. But sometimes it’s hard to say what the reason is.

I had a big fight with my sister. She called late one night driving home after she’d had a big fight with our brother.

Joe is blind and barely walks. He has other problems, too, none the least of which is his stubbornness and the fact that he had to leave his apartment and spend the winter smoking his pipe on our sister’s porch with a stocking cap pulled down over his nose.

I wish you could’ve seen him.

After five months of sharing a bathroom, they were both glad when he could move back to his own place. The nasty weather didn’t stop them — freezing rain, black ice on the roads — and my sister was fit to be tied.

Before I tell you what she said, let me just say this. The woman is crazy about Walmart. She loves Walmart a lot more than she loves me. Once, when I went to visit her for a week, she stopped by Walmart to “get a few things” and left me sitting in the parking lot for two hours.

I am not making that up. Ask Joe. He was there, too, standing by the car smoking his pipe with his stocking cap over his nose. People passing by kept a wide berth around us.

Anyhow. After settling Joe in his apartment, she went to Walmart, she said, to “get a few things” Joe needed. Two hours later, she was about to check out when the store made an announcement: They were closing due to an emergency generator shutting down.

No, she was told, she could not pay for the items in her cart. And yes, they were sorry about her blind brother, but she could not take the items for free.

She had to leave Walmart, hopping mad, find a grocery store and start all over.

To top it all, she said, after she finally lugged the stuff into Joe’s kitchen, he had the nerve to ask, “What? You only got one half gallon of milk?”

“The little cuss doesn’t even drink milk!” she said. “I love him to death, I’d give him an eye, but I could strangle him!”

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

“Wouldn’t strangle him?”

“No,” I said. “I wouldn’t give him an eye. The doctors said it wouldn’t help, remember?”

She got quiet, possibly trying to swerve back onto the road.

“If I give him an eye,” she said, “you have to give him something. Maybe a kidney?”

“He doesn’t need a kidney.”

“Well, he doesn’t need an eye, either, or I wouldn’t offer mine! It’s the principle of the thing!”

“OK, I’ll give him a kidney. At least kidneys don’t show.”

“You could get a glass eye.”

“I don’t want a glass eye.”

“Fine, give him a kidney!”

“Fine,” I said, “I will.”

We got quiet. I thought of my brother in his dark apartment and my sister driving home dodging black ice. I could hear her windshield wipers slapping out a tune, an old hit by Aretha Franklin (“You better think,” slap, slap, “Think about what you’re tryin’ to do to me!”)

“Sissy?” I said. “Did you run off the road yet?”

“No,” she said. “I’m here.”

So I cleared my throat and found the voice that I use when I want to be sure I am heard.

I told her she’s been a saint looking out for our brother, always being there when we need her, and how very much it would mean to our mother.

“When you get to heaven,” I said, “God will run out of stars trying to fill up your crown.”

She didn’t seem to know what to say to that. So I said, “Things happen for a reason. Do you know why that generator shut down on you at Walmart?”

“No,” she said, “why?”

“Because you left me in that parking lot for two hours.”

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley, CA 93924 or at www.sharonrandall.com.


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