“I popped Norah and her younger sister in one of those enormous and cumbersome grocery carts shaped like a car, and headed toward the bakery. After we picked up the cupcakes, I stopped at a clearance shelf that caught my eye.“While I was distracted, picking up and then dismissing the bottles of almost expired Ranch dressing and cans of Ensure, Norah was busy standing up in the cart, excitedly waving and gleefully proclaiming, ‘Hi old person! It’s my birfday today!’
“The man was elderly, stone-faced, and furrow-browed. However, before I could ‘shush’ her for calling him an ‘old person’ or ask the Earth to swallow me whole, he stopped and turned to her.
“If he was troubled by my no-filter-having child, he didn’t show it. His expression softened as he replied, ‘Well, hello little lady! And how old are you today?’
“They chatted for a few minutes, he wished her ‘happy birthday,’ and we went our separate ways.”
“We found the man a couple of aisles over and I approached him. ‘Excuse me, sir? This is Norah, and she’d like to know if you’d take a photo with her for her birthday?’
“His expression rapidly morphed from confused to stunned to delighted.
“He took a step back, steadied himself on his shopping cart, and placed his free hand on his chest. ‘A photo? With me?’ he asked.
‘Yes, suh, for my birfday!’ Norah pleaded.
“And so he did. I pulled out my iPhone and they posed together. She placed her soft hand on top of his soft hand. He wordlessly stared at her with twinkling eyes as she kept his hand in hers and studied his skinny veins and weathered knuckles. She kissed the top of his hand and then placed it on her cheek. He beamed. I asked his name, and he told us to call him ‘Dan.’
“We were blocking other shoppers and they didn’t care. There was magic happening in the grocery store that day and we could all feel it. Norah and Mr. Dan sure didn’t notice they were chatting away like long lost friends.”
“After a few minutes, I thanked Mr. Dan for taking the time to spend a bit of his day with us. He teared up and said, ‘No, thank YOU. This has been the best day I’ve had in a long time. You’ve made me so happy, Miss Norah.’