When I was growing up in rural Arkansas, my dad owned a general store. It wasn’t an impressive place, but it offered most of the things people needed.
It sat just up the road from our house. Every day at noon Dad walked home for dinner. (In the south, daily meals are labeled breakfast, dinner, and supper.)
No “hours of operation” were ever posted at the store, but everyone knew when it was open.
One old man always wanted to buy his groceries between noon and one o’clock.
He did not drive to the store and park his car there. He knew the store was closed.
He drove to our house, where Dad was eating dinner.
Mr. Grump didn’t park on the side of the road by our house. (We had no driveway.)
He drove his old-timey, heavy, black car up to the verge of our yard.
There he sat, scowling, waiting for Dad to open the store especially for him.
From behind our living room curtains, my siblings and I watched him: an angry old man, hunched inside a gangster car, its shiny grill aimed right at our front porch.
We pivoted our heads to glance at Dad and then at the man in our front yard.
Nervously, we kids waited for what might be an explosion.
The old man waited for Dad to leave his hot dinner on the table and open the store for him.
Dad simply waited to finish his meal and do whatever he usually did during his dinner break. Probably he visited the bathroom and checked on his hunting dogs in the pen at the back of the house.
Then, with a nod to the waiting shopper, he walked back to the store, the black car trailing him.
It strikes me today, reflecting on this memory, that we are all waiting.
Like memories, some of our waiting is short-term. We wait for the toast to pop up, and for the commercial to end so we can resume watching our show.
Some of our waiting is long-term. Right now, we are all waiting for this virus to run its course and leave us in peace.
Some of us wait nervously, fearing the worst.
Others wait angrily, personally affronted and wishing someone would make the world spin to their liking.
But some push past fear and anger to keep moving forward. They keep, as nearly as possible, to their usual productive routines.
Patience cannot be overrated.
My dad, Bob James
He learned patience through the things he endured.