In Your Stead

Dearest Rachel –

I always knew that I could find someone to replace you, but if I find someone to do the things we used to do together, that would be sufficient for the time being. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be the only one who needed someone to take your place, nor how.

You probably aren’t concerned with it – or much of anything that’s going on here on earth, for that matter – but it seems that there is a shortage of baby formula going around these days, much like there had been a run on toilet paper two years ago, when the lockdowns began (has it been that long since that whole panic was a thing? So much has happened since then). This actually doesn’t have as much to do with panic buying – at least not at first. No, apparently one of the few firms that manufacture specialty formula has been closed down since February due to an apparent leak to contamination and several unfortunate infant deaths. Said manufacturer claims that whatever bacteria was found in their facility did not match that which infected the infants in question, but that hardly matters now; they’re shut down nonetheless. So, at a single stroke, that reduces the supply by one third – and it’s been going on for three whole months.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with me, and I don’t blame you. This was never something we had to worry about; you never had a problem when Daniel was that age, and that’s not been needed in any event for some twenty-seven (closer to twenty-eight by now, in fact) years. But as it turns out, Kerstin’s son has a child who needs formula. And there isn’t much to be found.

Except… she seems to have located it at our nearby Costco. That’s all well I’m good, except she doesn’t have a card. This was something that you and she would do from time to time, shopping there on behalf of her, Ellen, and whoever else you thought of who needed something from the place.

At least, that’s what she told me as I met her there to see if they had anything available for purchase. Obviously, she hasn’t been there since you were gone – and probably not since the pandemic started. As far as I know, she does have her Sam’s card, but they apparently don’t have the brand of formula (if they have any formula at all) that her grandchild needs. In any event, she was telling me how much she missed doing this with you. I don’t make the best substitute, of course, but sometimes these errands just need to be run, so she has to run there with whoever she can.

So I was there in your stead, and the two of us wandered through the place, trying to figure out where they might keep the formula. After having no luck in the food aisles, we wandered to the back corner, where we used to get pain medications and other supplies for Chompers. There wasn’t any particular reason, other than I thought I had seen things back there in the past.

It seems that I was at least half right. There were baby supplies back there – diapers and wipes and what not – but no actual formula. However, we found the next best thing – a store employee, who Kerstin asked about the supply of baby formula. And as it happened, he knew exactly what we were looking for, and that they had just received a shipment that day. Given the circumstances, they placed the pallet by the cash registers, for people who need it to spot it quickly.

By the time we got to it, the pallet was almost completely empty. Only the last layer was left, and of that layer, more than half of it was gone. But Kerstin was able to get two containers of the stuff – which was all that she was allowed to purchase at one time – and we checked out. I’m sorry that I couldn’t have made it a more social time for her – she offered to do dinner with me as a ‘thank you,’ I think – but at that point, Daniel and Logan had already decided on what to have for dinner, and I was just as happy to pick their meal up on my way back home. Dinner with Kerstin will have to wait for another time, if at all.

I know what she misses is the social aspect of such a trip, and I don’t make for a good substitute in that respect. But at least, she got what she came for (and then some – no one that I know ever goes to Costco and only gets what they planned on), and I’m happy to have been able to facilitate that for her – and her grandbaby – in your stead.

Until next time, honey, keep an eye out for me.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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