Sitting at the Kitchen Table
Sitting at the kitchen table, I shake off the turtle shell I’ve been carrying around before making dinner. I think of the 80 something year old woman who can no longer raise her head to meet mine and I thrust out my shoulders behind me, deeper until it burns. That fire, I’ll stretch for it until something snaps.
Did you know my grandfather isn’t well? No one will say what exactly is going on and it’s tricky to determine when he is sitting upside down at a kitchen table on the other end of the world.
At least he didn’t ride the subway with me today, holding my breath in rush hour as diluted throngs of people stepped delicately past me. Eyes darting, hands to themselves. Trust no one, their masks whispered.
I drum my fingers on the table and hear the pat pat pat of my callouses touching the painted wood.
The subway got fuller and fuller and I swear I could feel a tickle in my throat by the time I passed Spadina Station. Why is everybody staring?
On the wall by the kitchen table, we’ve put up a painting by my grandmother. Not the grandmother who is married to the grandfather who is not well. The grandmother who was not well long before I was alive, the one who died of an illness we have never named in this house. The grandmother after whom I am named. The artist, the editor. The one whose paintings hang on our walls.
What would she have said at the kitchen table?
I do not call my grandfather (the one who is not well) because technology frustrates him and his hearing is going, never mind his memory.
I do recall walking with my grandfather around the block, discussing street smarts. “You’re book smart”, he had told me. And, with that suppressed grin of his he said: “but where do you expect book smarts to get you?”
And if it weren’t for this blasted pandemic, and his tottering health, he would have hoisted himself into the air to make it in time to see his eldest grandchild glide across a stage sagging with the strides of previous medical school graduates. “Book smarts” he might have thought, perhaps wondering what his life would look like had he studied at university.
Pat pat pat on the kitchen table. Instead maybe we’ll just order in.