I colored my hair to be in a Brian Friel play, darker, and my grandmother told me I used to be pretty, before all of that dye.  It is one of my favorite memories of her, the most clear and true.  Grandma’s world was ordered, the way God meant it to be; the way a girl of 8, who’s mother died leaving her younger siblings to care for, needed it to be.

Every night, after Carson, Grandma would set the table for breakfast.  Jelly jar glasses ready for juice, miss matched fiesta cereal bowls and plates, my grandfather’s fizzing orange pills, and the frosted flakes all prepared for the morning.  She was a night person, like me, who needed a little preparation for the morning chaos.

When I couldn’t sleep, I would walk to the bathroom, and in the flickering fluorescent light I could see it all just waiting there. It always seemed hopeful to me: morning was just around the corner and there would be raisin bread toast with real butter.   A big family around a small table.

She was an accountant at the paper mill during World War II.  But, what she always wanted to talk about was the dancing, every night.  She danced her way to my Grandfather.   When us grandkids would do our MTV moves for her she would scrunch up her face and tell us that’s NOT dancing. Every once on a while she would give us a glimpse of the swing steps her feet still remembered. I always thought my grandfather looked like a gangster and pictured them dancing together, he in his fedora and she in her pin curls.

After the CPR, the ambulance, the calls, it must have been too quiet.   My Grandfather slipped away.  Just her, sitting in the high-backed chair by the phone, looking into the kitchen, at a table set for two.  I imagine she wasn’t alone, multitudes of my cousins lived in town, but I imagine she did feel unbearably alone.

I wonder if she still talked to him as she made the coffee in the morning.  I wonder if she continued to set the breakfast table for herself every night.

Days before her own death, she awoke from a dream and told me that all of her sisters were swimming in the pond and they were beckoning her to jump in with them.  They were telling her the morning feast was prepared and ready for her.  A big family around a small table, swimming, dancing and toast with real butter.


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