famiglia e paisano (the latter as in the screwtop wine)

I don’t see my grandpa too much these days. He’s eighty-five and he doesn’t get along like he used to – as well as he lives in Southern California (with much of my extended family) and we Hogafour don’t have the scratch to take vacations much. He and his eldest daughter, my aunt Patti, sojourn up here to visit our little wing of the family and check up on my aunt’s handful of houses she owns and rents.

Due to the relative infrequency of his visits (about once a year) I’m reminded each time I see my grandfather it may be the last. He seems in good enough health but he takes a tackle-box worth of medications daily (my two California aunts help look after him) and he’s no spring chicken. My father used to say Bill might live to be a hundred, and sure. My grandfather’s mind is amazing and sharp but he’s also a bit foggy (I swear it’s the drugs) and he now walks with a cane and naps about eighteen hours a day. I feel a great affection for him but also a breech I can’t cross as there are also patriarchal aspects of our family that drive me fucking crazy. I do what I can which is mostly, treat him kindly and cook for him. He genuinely seems to enjoy listening in to family as we sit and talk. And he loves, loves to eat. I cook a lot and talk a lot so it works out well.

Today I was feeling a bit below the weather and I spent most of my energies cleaning and preparing the “feast” for this evening (slow-cooked meatballs in marinara over angel hair pasta, a veggie tray with olives and dip, devilled eggs, and roasted cauliflower and broccoli). As special treats I added rhubarb pie from the GH Public Market and our family’s favored red table wine (at dinner my mom had a small bucket-worth and got her trademark red face). After dinner was standing by (I love slow-cooking in the big enameled pot in my oven) I managed to watch a bit of computer-movie and sew a bit and rest a bit and wrestle with my kids a bit and – a special treat – have lunch out with my husband where we talked about the next recording effort for his band (w00t!). You know what’s funny, I’m not sure how much alone-time other couples get who have small kids. Even though we homeschool and our kids sleep in a big-ass pile in our very large bed-Pangaea the moments I have with Ralph have been increasing over the years and are quite special for both of us.

My grandfather, aunt and mother arrived at seven and we served the food on my sewing table, which Ralph had moved into the living room (we don’t own a dining room table). The kids were wonderfully enthusiastic at dinner and then vanished while the grownups did some talking (a lot about chickens and gardening and the world of paid employment which only one adult out of four currently works in). In early moments I had braced for my mother to being “bragging” to my grandfather about us (she has done this in the past, mainly about my housework standards and my husband’s sainthood, ugh – remember that “patriarchal” stuff I was talking about?) but fortunately this did not happen. I ended up in a long conversation with my aunt (a nurse – actually a Wound Care Specialist who’s used maggots as treatment, ew!/awesome!, and yes we had this conversation at the table). I gave my grandfather a loaf of homemade zucchini bread wrapped in wax paper I’d baked earlier in the day. Before the relatives left my grandfather gave each of my kids a twenty dollar bill after I sternly forbade him not to for a few confusing minutes (I misunderstood and thought he was trying to give me the scratch). He was a Mobil Oil man and has money now. Gifting it is one way he shows his love.

The three of them left at about nine thirty and Ralph cleaned the kitchen while the kids bathed and I took a few minutes stitching on some corduroy pants for my son. I’m grateful Ralph has tomorrow off as I love having him around.

Sometimes I hardly know what to do with those I love other than be present with them and spend time – and cook and feed them (I remember clearly how much of a difference it made to me when my father was dying and he began to stop eating; I could no longer minister to him in this way). Fortunately most people seem to appreciate these things. Ralph paid me an amazing compliment yesterday when he told me the dinner I’d prepared (a Spanish tortilla on warmed-and-buttered French bread, marinated kale salad, and corn on the cob) made him immediately feel better and then “healed him” of his illness (which really in the final analysis seems to be true, either that or a striking coincidence). Now that I’ve caught the scratchy-throat and stuffed-up nose myself I’m wishing for the same kind of healing.

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