There she was again. Felipe had been coming to this grocery store for weeks and he had not seen this wonderful lady until just recently. Ever since his wife of 37 years, Rodriga, passed away two years ago, he had started shopping for groceries himself at this grocery store.

This was something that Rodriga had done for them for years, and now Felipe was doing it. At first it seemed like a chore to do, but little by little he found small pleasures in doing it. There were the little children who were running around and who reminded him of his grandchildren. The young couples and their new love as they walked down the aisles. The bright colors of the new items on sale. All of these new things made his new grocery activity a little more like a new experience and less of a chore.

That is, until Manuela. He spotted her in the grocery aisle with what must be her granddaughter. She was quietly and calmly explaining the difference between an avocado (which, to Felipe’s enjoyment her heard her tell the little girl, “Aguacate” which is the Spanish word for avocado) and a different vegetable. “Oh wow” he thought. “And she’s Spanish too!” He heard the little girl calling her “Grandma Manuela” and he thought “Aha! So that is her name!”

He wished to know more about this nice lady who had captured his attention in the grocery store. He knew that people met online these days – but that was foreign to him. His grandson Diego encouraged Felipe to look on a dating site called “FindAMateForFree” or FAMFF.com as people referred to it. “Its free and so everybody goes on there.” Added Diego. But Felipe did not feel comfortable with computers and even less so with online dating sites. “What about looking her up on Facebook grandpa?” Asked Diego, but again, Felipe did not feel comfortable with “these new things.” He would just keep doing his shopping and hope to again run into the nice lady.

Little by little, Felipe noted that Manuela came to the grocery store on Fridays – and so he switched his grocery store days to Fridays. Usually Fridays in the early afternoon.

He also noticed that she often spent time in the grocery aisle – much more than in other aisles.

But how to approach her? He had been married to Rodriga for 37 years and they knew each other for 5 years before that. Felipe had not had to approach a lady who he did not know for over 40 years. “That avocado looks too green” he said to Manuela as she carefully looked at the avocados in the grocery section. He felt immediately terribly. He thought to himself “Really? A green avocado? Is that the best you can do? What’s wrong with you?” He was embarrassed at his poor choice of opening statement to this attractive lady who had captivated his imagination and thoughts.

Manuela simply looked in the distance and did not say a word. Felipe then said “I’m sorry. I did not mean to interrupt you.” Finally, he heard her speak. “I’m so sorry. I was lost in thought when you mentioned about the avocado. I think you are right. This avocado may indeed be too green.”

“Lost in thought?” asked Felipe. “Is everything ok?”

“Well no. Not really” answered Manuela. “My husband of 40 years, Javier, was just admitted to the hospital last week. His heart is failing. I asked him for years to have his blood pressure checked and to go to see a doctor, but he wouldn’t listen.”

Felipe listened attentively. He understood Manuela’s pain. Felipe had visited Rodriga every day when she was in the hospital. He new all too well what Manuela was going through – and what awaited her. “I am so sorry. I know what you are going through. My wife Rodriga was in that same hospital and two years ago I lost her” he said. “Oh my. I am so sorry to hear that” answered Manuela.

He learned that Manuela lived alone. That her children all lived in California, many miles away from Illinois. He learned that Manuela did not really know how to drive. “Javier always drove” she said.

As such, Felipe, very politely and with much respect, asked Manuela if he could give her a ride to the hospital when she went to visit Javier. Much to his surprise, she accepted.

So, they started to get together in this way. Felipe would come by in the mornings and pick up Manuela and take her to the hospital to visit Javier.

She introduced him to Javier and said “This nice gentleman has been so wonderful Javier. He is so nice to bring me to the hospital to visit you.” Javier, very weak and frail, could only gently muster a “thank you” to Felipe.

The days turned into weeks until one day, when Felipe came to pick up Manuela to take her to the hospital, she told him that the hospital had called her in the middle of the night and told her that “Javier is no more” she said with much sadness and tears in her eyes. She did not need to go to the hospital that day.

Felipe felt so sorry for her. He had just experienced this same pain not long ago and knew what she was going through. He excused himself and said “I’m so sorry to hear that. I imagine that your children will be coming for the funeral services and you will be busy with things. I am glad to have helped you with your hospital trips. If there is anything else I can do, please let me know.” And with that, he gently left and drove himself home.

The days passed and became weeks and Felipe did not hear from Manuela. He wondered how things were coming along with her.

Just then the doorbell rang. It was Manuela! “How did you find me?” Asked Felipe. How did you know my address? “When my grandsons from California were here for the funeral, they asked me how I had been able to visit their grandfather in the hospital and I told them all about you. They know all about computers and Google and online and they found your address for me” she said. I have come to bring you a “Pastelón” which is a typical dish which we make in Puerto Rico. “I am not sure that I ever thanked you for your kindness in bringing me to the hospital every day” she said “and I wanted to bring this as a token of my gratitude.”

With that, Felipe and Manuela slowly began to make their grocery trips together. Every Friday like clockwork. Until one day, when they were by the grocery aisle. Felipe picked up an avocado and said to Manuela, “Does this one look not ripe enough?” he asked. She knew what he meant. That is how he first introduced himself to her. She gently held his hand as he held the avocado, looked at him in the eyes, gently give him a soft kiss on the cheek and said “You were right. That avocado was not ripe and I thank God for that.”


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