My parents have this magical house. At first it seems like your typical fairly large suburban home, with two living rooms, a too-small kitchen, a separate dining room, and a few bedrooms. If you go upstairs, you immediately see a bathroom, a laundry closet, and three bedroom doors—but then you round the corner and see down a long hallway a fourth bedroom door. The house is bigger than you thought: a four-bedroom house with a surplus of shared living spaces. But then you keep exploring, and you realize that one of the bedroom doors opens to two rooms and a second upstairs bathroom. Downstairs, off the dining room, instead of a garage, there’s an enclosed office and a master bedroom, complete with its own bathroom, for a total of seven separate rooms that could be used as bedrooms. While we have had about thirty people sleep there on New Year’s Eves past, the house can sleep seven couples with privacy, or four couples, three babies, one child, and one single adult. This is what we did last week, sharing in each other’s grief.
|The last outing with everyone (babies present but hidden behind people)|
The mornings were slow, with parents groggily and babies happily arising from bed. Every morning someone made coffee; most mornings someone else went on a Starbuck’s run for lattes and cappuccinos. Midday could find us all in and out of the kitchen, warming food that people brought by. This is when my uncle and grandmother would appear, my uncle setting up shop on the kitchen table with his computer, putting together a slideshow of my grandfather’s life.
|The four of us spending the week with Nana and Abba|
In the afternoons, people would take turns disappearing: to walk, to nap, to try to nap, to cry, to read. The house, along with the babies, would sleep. In the evenings we came back together, around the table, to nourish our bodies and, in the latter part of the week, to share stories of the wake, the funeral, and Abba himself.
Many people have a hard time eating when they are mourning. Others, like my sister says, “Want to eat everything: comfort food topped with marshmallows and chocolate.”
Or what my sister did: comfort food—warm bowls of soup or cheesy chicken cordeu on bleu casserole followed by marshmallow-y chocolate on graham crackers, warmed to the perfect ‘smore in the microwave.
Or my younger sister, who peaked in the freezer when the gallon of cookie dough ice cream was gone and exclaimed, "Is the ice cream GONE?"
Or my sister-in-law, who had the gallon of cookie dough ice cream out, for her second (and third) helpings.
The women ate too many sweets while the men drank beer. We talked and joked. It began to feel like Christmas, when we were gathered around the table after the babies were in bed.
But then we were stung again when we remembered that Abba wasn’t sitting contendedly next to Nana, his eyes laughing, as he did at Christmas. None of us can yet understand that he will never do this again, until we are together in the afterlife.
Even in our grief, we shouldn't forget it is Easter.
|Abba gazing adoringly at Nana, circa 1993|