At first it was a novelty. Of course I'll get your shopping, no problem at all. Sure, what else would I be doing? Oh, this is great. I am being proactive and useful during this Covid-19 mess. At least I can do something positive by helping my parents.
I'm not sure why they have to write the list on a piece of paper the size of a stamp. It could, if required, be rolled up and smuggled into SuperValu in my lower cavity without detection. I'm pretty sure we're not at that stage. Yet.
What is it with the incoherent handwriting? Words written at various obscure angles. Did they write one word, then spin the piece of paper before writing another? I see others in the supermarket clutching their bits of paper, mumbling and cursing to themselves.
The novelty of shopping for my parents wore off quickly. I would dutifully leave their groceries at the door, then stand at the window looking in and watching them watching morning Mass, oblivious to my presence. I enjoy this moment for a little while, not really wanting them to see me. Then, after far too long, I realise they don't and won't even notice me unless I knock on the window.
Eh, hello? Mum will look up and wave. Dad, with his back to me in the chair, will raise his right hand like the Pope gracefully acknowledging his audience. Then they make their way slowly to the door as I skip over the flower bed and retreat to the garden at least four metres away.
Mum is a little hard of hearing, so this can be a challenge. Dad often appears at the top window and both talk to me at the same time. I have managed to evolve and can now communicate with two people, one slightly deaf, at the same time.
Then there's the dog. Our little Jack Russell, Lucy, throws an absolute wobbler every time I call. She does laps of the living room at high speed before jumping up on the chair and risking a spinal injury trying to get to me through the window.
I am not sure anything or anyone has elicited such pure unconditional love as that dog. I don't have kids, so maybe that's what happens with kids. I hear it wears off though. But not with Lucy. If marrying your dog becomes a thing, I'm in.
Then I will see it. The list. Mum holds it in her hand and instantly apologies for it. "Sorry John," she says. "That's OK, Mum," I lie. How many different places are on the list? "Oh, just one," she lies. "OK, great," I lie. We discuss the finer details of the shopping and what is and isn't possible. Dad is oblivious. He has been fed by this woman for over 50 years and couldn't tell the top of an egg from the bottom.
I drive around the town from one end to the other, desperately trying to get all they need. I use up a bottle's worth of hand sanitiser in the process. Hand bacteria levels are maintained at a constant zero infiltration. I realise now my parents eat a lot and their milk consumption could threaten future milk quotas.
I return, laden down with bags and pile them at the door. I peer in through the window only to see the back door open and I know Mum is probably with the dog sunbathing out the back. Dad is more than likely on the computer advising Bill Gates on the next version of Windows. Despite using a computer for more than 20 years now, he still doesn't really get the concept. I did show him YouTube recently and he seems to be travelling down that wormhole with ease. I'm pretty proud of that distraction tactic. I knock on the window and make my retreat into the garden.
Mum appears at the door. She looks at all the shopping. "Oh, John you're a pet. Did you get the Ryvita? And did you go to the chemist?" Dad appears at the top window. "Did you get the logs, John?" he says. I mumble "Sweet Jesus" to myself.
And then I see it - another list. "Just a few more things we need, John," Mum says. "A few more things? Are you having a laugh? I just bought up half of Tesco. There's enough to last you a month!" What more could they possibly need? "Oh, you know, a few bits and pieces," Mum says.
It is then I consider putting them on a diet of rice and beans and initiating once-weekly shopping excursions. But I couldn't do that. So I tell them it's twice a week from now on. It's dangerous me running in and out of all these shops. That seems to work. "Oh, OK,' says Mum, while looking surprised and disappointed.
It's somewhere around now my heart seems to expand beyond my body, and the urge to hug them overwhelms me so much that I must consciously put on a cheerful face to hide my emotion.
I love them both so much I cannot contain it. It is far bigger than me. An ocean of it flowing towards them. My love for the dog seems like a trickle compared to this. Well, maybe a river. But this - this is the ocean and I am at sea. If the shopping could speak, it would say: "I love you".
"Maybe you could go to the butchers down the road?" Mum says. "We've no dinner for tomorrow."