It had been decided. As the eldest grandchild and the closest to him (geographically and emotionally) I was to be the family spokesman. A vibrant, yet gentle giant of a man, Grandpa had changed since Grandma’s demise, choosing to hole up and nurse his wounds in the rambling old farmhouse built by his own two hands, than to share his grief with family or friends. Even I had failed to put the twinkle back in his eyes. A boat without a sail, stuck in a stagnant pool turning into quagmire, he had become despondent and careless of his appearance and health.
On college break, I was to convince Gramps to clean out the house and mention moving in with us. Hence, the massive packing up of decades of junk and memories . . .
“Hey, Grandpa, what’s this?” a ragged scrapbook in my clasp.
“Don’t rightly know, son. Let’s take a look.”
Each page held cut-out magazine pictures of food. For a typical teenage empty stomach scavenger, the succulent dishes were extremely appealing.
“Oh, now I recall,” guffawing and slapping his knee with a huge gnarly paw.
‘This is a valuable relic to get such an animated response,’ I think, relieved to see a spark of interest on his wrinkle-creased face.
(Now, Gramps was a ‘meat and potatoes man,’ while I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas. So, whenever I spent time with the grandparents, we fell into a well-rehearsed pattern of balancing each other out with Grams’ magical meals. Grandpa piled his plate high with the main courses, which didn’t give him much room for dessert. I used a small saucer for the main meal, followed by a platter of Grandma’s delicious baking. Grandpa would then lean back to digest, tranquil as a toad on a warm rock, while Grandma beamed at us, arms folded in her lap like a smiling Buddah statue.)
“Whose name is at the bottom of this page?” groping for his ancient spectacles while I handed him his trusty magnifying glass, “Ah, yes—Sophia!” his eyes roaming over the spinach quiche dripping with melted butter.
He turned the page to reveal a fresh-fruit bowl filled with a dozen different fresh fruits, each with a dollop of whipped cream. The whole creation was topped with maraschino cherries and pecans.
“Griselda!” he murmured, an arthritic, knobby finger tracing over the name below.
Next came pot roast, surrounded with cooked carrots, onions and mushrooms, garnished with sprigs of parsley, labeled, “Mable.”
“This one was Cordelia’s; oh, there’s Geraldine; and Margaret, I almost forgot her.”
The final graphic was a fully garnished turkey with oozing stuffing, edged with mounds of mashed potatoes coated with a buttery cheese sauce. Circled around it were various smaller photos: chunky cranberry sauce, creamy paprika-sprinkled deviled eggs, brown sugar and melted marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, seven layer salad, swollen butter-smothered biscuits with honey. Underneath a calligraphy scripted name of ‘Sarah Baines’, Grams' maiden name, stretched across the length of the paper.
“Okay, Gramps. Spill the beans. I smell a story.”
Grinning he explained the old-fashioned adage, ‘The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’.
“So, I kept this journal of sorts--to help me choose.”
“Choose which meal you liked best?”
“Nah, which dish--er, I mean--woman to wed,” winking.
On the back of the scrapbook was pasted a note:
I found this album buried in the cedar chest when I was doing some sorting—after my cancer diagnosis, I thought I better spruce things up while I still could.
You ol’ scamp! And I thought you chose me because of my figure! HA!
Ev, I view our relationship as rich and sustaining as the meals pictured in this book. If you’re reading this, I imagine I am already in heaven with our wonderful Savior, waiting for you to join me someday.
Grieve for me awhile, but don’t make grief your friend.
Don’t forget the read THE BOOK, because that will continue to be your source of strength.
GO ON LIVING, EV, because God, in His great wisdom, has granted you time to reach and help others for Him.
It wasn’t long after that Grandpa was able to get on with his life. He never did move, though. He revived into a semblance of the man we all knew and loved and if occasionally when we ate together, his eyes misted over, we knew his tears only added spice to our hearts.
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