I have always thought my grandmother was regal, a Queen Mother.
In Wisconsin, I sat with my grandmother expending every ounce of positivity and optimism within me as neighbors drifted in with casseroles and home made chicken soups, pies and strudels.
She looked at me and said "I am so melancholy. But it is a comfort to have something delicious and good for you that someone made with their own hands. Food is love."
So after 72 years with my grandfather she must move forward alone. And food is love.
I left her condo, went to buy groceries with my father's credit card and fought the urge to pull over the car and go to sleep. My eyelids were weighted down like iron. It was a bright January day, I had slept the night before and woken at a reasonable hour. It is just exhausting not to cry.
I am an adult member of this family now and so I do not cry, till later in the afternoons when my mother comes home from work and finds me curled up in her bed. Then we cry, just a little. "He was my dad longer than my own father." She says, then goes about all the minor details that no one else even thinks of for days on end with a house full of mourners.
I put together the bean dip that she had promised for school. And then I made pans of vegetable lasagna, the kitchen is a sea of sqaush, zuchini, mushrooms and kale, with white wave tips of ricotta and mozzarella. In a frenzy of love, and helplessness, I flew around the kitchen slicing and roasting and tossing olive oil, nearly burning the garlic, whisking the butter and flour, not scorching the cream. Barely keeping my head above the water. One pan with sausage, one without for my vegetarian brother who has not come home yet.
They will cook the lasagnas the next day, the night before the service. But I am gone, to stay the night with my grandmother. Away from a full house to a quiet and newly empty condo. I brought her a tiny lasagna but she is not well enough to eat it.
I knelt at her feet and manicured her hands while softly pressing for my favorite stories. I worked lotion into her gnarled hands and she told me about picking out her engagement ring.
"I thought for sure I was blinding everyone on that streetcar with my little ring."
In the morning my beloved cousin and I made up her face the way she made up ours when we were little girls, before an outing or church. My mother never let me wear make up, but my grandmother would dab bright pink lipstick, hand me a tissue to blot my mouth....a little perfume behind the ears.
She arrived at the church, flanked by grown granddaughters, her ladies in waiting and a snow white poodle.
At her service.