INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (FOX 13) - An Indiana man expected his run to the grocery store to be quick enough to catch the Major League All Star Game. He didn't expect to join a widower celebrating his late wife's birthday.
Gregory Johnson entered the Kroger grocery store on Tuesday. As he waited in the deli line for his order of teriyaki chicken breast, he began to strike up a conversation with an older man named Jim in a wheelchair. His cart was filled with a dozen roses and a birthday cake.
Gregory said to him, "It looks like you've got a big night planned." The stranger looked up at him, "with the saddest eyes I believe I've ever seen and told me his story."
The encounter Gregory had with the widower is a heartwarming story he felt was worth sharing publicly on his Facebook page. He explained that the man's wife died five years ago. Every year since then, he continued to buy roses and a cake on her birthday.
"You know how there are moments in life where it literally feels as if your heart is breaking in two as tears attempt to flood your eyes?" Gregory explained on his Facebook post. "He was trying not to cry anymore than he had been. I put my hand on his shoulder and tried to comfort him and his broken heart."
Jim explained how he met his wife, in vivid detail:
Jim met Gloria during their high school days, although they attended different schools. He was a star basketball player and she was a cheerleader at a rival high school. His team defeated her team in the semi-finals. Despite their victory, he took notice in Gloria.
A friend introduced Jim to Gloria, and he asked her if she would be interested in returning to his school the following night to root for his team, since her team lost. In response, she read him the riot act, and said she will only support her school.
"Furthermore, I don't even know you and I have much better things to do tomorrow night than watch your high school play again," Jim recalled Gloria saying, describing her as a firecracker. She grabbed her jacket and her friends. Together, they stormed out of the high school gymnasium. He thought that would be the last time he would see her.
To his surprise, she showed up the following night when his team won the Sectional Championship. Gloria stuck around to congratulate Jim - and they were together ever since.
After Jim told his story to Gregory, their deli orders were ready, but Jim wanted to continue talking about Gloria. He told Gregory where they built their first house, how their children were doing, "and that he loved his wife as much on the day she passed away 5 years ago as he did the day they were married."
The conversation in the grocery store lasted for about an hour, but Gregory still had the All Star Game in the back of his head.
"But there was no way I was cutting this visit short over a silly baseball game. Jim needed a friend to talk to," Gregory explained.
Every year, the Kroger manager would take Jim's picture, and post it on the store's bulletin board on his wife's birthday. After the photo session, Jim and Gregory continued talking. The manager noticed Jim's demeanor becoming more cheerful, and asked for another picture. This time, with Gregory in it.
Gregory told him it was a pleasure to speak to Jim. In his head, he still wanted to get home to watch part of the game. But then, Jim asked him if he lived nearby and could stop by his home to have a piece of the birthday cake. Gregory was surprised and said he had goosebumps.
"I simply looked at him and told him I'd be honored to sit at his table and have a piece of cake with him in remembrance of his wife," he said.
He missed the baseball game, but he said there will always be another one.
"It no longer was important," Gregory said. "Hopefully, I made that little old man's night a tad bit better, because he certainly made mine one of the best I've had in a long time."