What do you eat in hospitals, in ICUs and CCUs and PCUs? Who knows. Who cares? There are foods that we call comfort foods, normally the creamy, starchy, cheesy sorts of foods, and I know that I for one turn to them over and over again for all the soothing warmth and fullness that they do provide. But then there are things for which there is no comfort.
We lost this lady.
And I don't want to get into it too much in this forum because it still bears with it a kind of hyperventilating grief, a sadness and a longing—a missing—that I never knew could be so heavy. And because I'm afraid that writing about it will strip it of its gravity—that if I make it into something concrete, then she will slip free from the Earth and float away. And I need her here. Selfishly, she has to stay.
We lost this lady.
I have been exhorted many times in the ensuing days, weeks, and months to hold tightest to the happy memories (not that I ever had any intention of relinquishing them). And I do, absolutely. I remember that her biggest laughs were completely without sound and I remember that she wore clear plastic bonnets in the rain and I remember being swaddled in a big white bath towel that felt so clean I thought it had never been used, giggling next to TwinFin by the claw-foot tub and staring at the ceiling in her Gadsden bath.
I remember that there was a cardboard pink elephant filled with cheap trinkets and toys at the top of her bookshelf and into which we were allowed to dig if we were very very good (which was never), because she was forever a teacher. I love the photo above for that reason, because she got that look on her face when she was imparting wisdom (which was always).
My pragmatism, my cynicism, my perfectionism—all from her.
It isn't easy for me to be at the center of a storm for which there are no words. In my world, words constitute order, and so grief—which is just a word that means "a billion different feelings"—is a struggle. I never expected it to be easy, but I couldn't have predicted the chaos. The startling, unrelenting explosion of heartbreak.
So as we walked through her silent house and felt the emptiness and strange coolness of the air and watched as the pieces of her life, one by one, were boxed and bagged and carried away, it was intensely painful. But it was also tangible. It had form and function and oh my god it smelled like her. Mothballs and perfume, not in that order.
The things I have now, I know, are just things: her rings, her china, a 2007 Christmas card with her handwriting, "Love Gran." But I touch them constantly, running my fingertips over a gold band or a green rim or the place where she put pen to paper. All the time, I accidentally refer to her in the present tense. Sometimes, I forget she's gone. Those days are the hardest.
Until there is a harder day. There will be harder days, and easier days, and desperate days, and funny days, and angry days, and lovely carefree days. There will be more days. And every day that I can put on her apron and get in the kitchen and make a meal that I serve on my Grandma's china—those will be the days that are full of her.
Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce (recipe below)
1 boneless, skinless chicken cutlet
1 tablespoon olive oil ½ lemon
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 whole-grain flatbread (I used Toufayan brand.)
2 tomato slices
4 red onion slices
1 lettuce leaf
1. Prepare Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce. Set aside in refrigerator to chill.
2. Drizzle chicken with olive oil and juice of ½ lemon, and season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Top with garlic, pressing garlic into chicken. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat, and grill chicken 4 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through. Set aside to rest.
3. Warm flatbread according to package directions. Top warm flatbread with lettuce, onion, and tomato. Slice chicken into thin strips, and place on top of tomato slices. Dollop with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce. Makes 1 serving.
1 small salad cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
Pinch of salt
Combine first 4 ingredients and juice of ½ lemon in a small bowl. Makes ¾ cup.