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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

‎The phone rang three times, and then four. After it got to five I waited for the voicemail to click on. I heard a cough, a throat clear and then my grandfather’s booming voice came on the line. For a moment I was confused. Hello? Is that you? Then I clued in to the fact that it was the answering machine, he had just recorded a new message.

I smiled, listening to him. I wondered why he’d done a new message. The old one had been there for years; I’ve heard it so many times I could recite it by heart. I was lost in my own thoughts and almost missed it. He got to the part where he said he wasn’t home and my heart caught in my throat when he said both their names. His name and my grandmother’s name.

The old recording just said “we’re not here.” Safe, simple, basic. The new one made me catch my breath. She’s not home because she doesn’t live there anymore. She’s not home because she lives at what could nicely be called a retirement home. She’s not home.

It got to the end of the recording and I waited for the beep, still wrapped up in her name. She’s not home. ‎ I left my message, passed along some information to firm up our plans to go down to visit for Thanksgiving. We’ll bring the turkey and sides if he could take care of picking up a couple of pies. We’ll be there between 3 and 4pm, depending on how long it takes for the bird to cook. We’ll try to eat around 5:00. And then I hung up, put the phone back in the cradle and ‎leaned back against the kitchen counter. She’s not home.‎

As it does so often now, it suddenly occurred to me how much she would have hated that recording. If she were still who she was before and not who she is now, she would have made him redo it. She would have told him it’s not nice to cough on the answering machine recording and he would need to record it again. He would then have to read through the instructions again, commenting on how small the print is on everything these days, and he would have to do it again. Because she said so.

That’s the way she was. She had a way of doing things that was so capable, so competent, so inherently right that it wouldn’t even occur to you to question it. You wanted to please her; wanted to do things just right so she would lean over and give you a hug. I remembered the hours I spent on a little stool in the kitchen, pulled up close to the counter so I could see what she was doing and if I was lucky enough, help.

There was a certain crystal dish for the pickles and another, almost identical for something else. But of course you would never put the pickles in the dish that was meant for something else. Those dishes used to sit in a cabinet in their living room but now they are at my house, in the back of one of my kitchen cabinets. He keeps cleaning things out, selling what he can and giving away what no one will pay for. He doesn’t know where he’s going to go, or when, but he’s determined not to leave us with a big mess when he goes wherever it is he’s going to go, whenever he goes. I snagged the pickle (and other) dishes early on. My dinner parties usually involve a bbq on the back deck and the pickles are served right from the jar, the lid cracked open if I’m feeling particularly “hostessy,” but I couldn’t bear the thought of the pickle dish being in some stranger’s house. Goodness only knows what they would put in it, nuts or some other such nonsense.

She would hate that.

Every time we go visit her at “the home” as we call it, the little word “the” in front of “home” saying all that needs to be said about it, I look around and see things she would hate. Not that it’s a bad place, they do the best they can, but she would hate the mismatched sheets and people in slippers all day. She would hate that she needs help to do things. She would hate the way my grandfather talks almost constantly, filling in all of the spaces that she use to fill with her stories and her laughter. I know he does it so maybe we won’t notice how little she says, how easily she gets lost, can’t keep up with the conversation. I know why he does it, love him a little bit more because I know why he does it, but she would hate it.

And when we go down for Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday she will sit quietly on the couch, trying to participate, asking a question here or there but she won’t go anywhere near the kitchen. That’s where it always hits me the most. I will be in there, trying to find her wisk to stir the gravy or the right pot to cook the potatoes and she will be in the living room. What I wouldn’t give for her to come around the corner and ask me what I’m looking for, while effortlessly digging out the potato pot and kissing me on the head. She would have done it better.

But now she’s not home. And she would hate that.

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