Across the Kitchen Table

Posted on May 25, 2011


I finally got the tomatoes transplanted from the solo cups today, Dad. They were almost two feet tall and rootbound a bit; I could just see you shaking your head. I’ll miss the smell of their leaves when I open the windows now, but they’re already flowering and need to be in the ground. I know, the growing season here is so much shorter. Crazy to be planting tomatoes in May, but that’s what we do. Of course I saved the solo cups for next year.

My back is sore today, from the trip and then jumping into yard work, I suppose. Yes, I’ll take a hot shower later. I would have stood behind your chair if we’d been working together and rubbed your shoulders and smiled as you made all your purring sounds. You’re such a goof. A shoulder rub does always feel good after a hard day’s work. I think I’ll skip solitaire, though. I never could get into that.

I thought a lot today while I was working about you and Logan. What does it feel like to be finished with this stage? No tomatoes, no shoulder rubs, no kitchen table. What are you up to? Do you see him and work together? Is he quite the whipper-snapper, not having had much time down here? I almost think of him as a teen, sure he knows how everything goes, sure he knows the answers first before you even say anything. It makes me smile, though perhaps he’s not like that at all. I’ll bet you like him. It would be interesting to hear who you think he’s like.

It’s a missing you day. It was odd to see your grave Saturday, settled down but not quite flat. Mom has the stone ordered (she was careful to shop around and got a really nice one for a good price) but it isn’t up yet. Your spot is still settling.

I got a catch in my throat as I looked at the little spot dug by your bigger one. It made me think of all the times we walked through that graveyard, telling stories and noting lifespans. I walked back through it again and saw little Johnny’s white limestone marker, over a hundred years old now, another little grave beside the bigger ones. I was careful to keep my thoughts to myself. You know how it feels like there will be a flood of tears if you ever start? Yeah. I suppose now’s as good a time as any.

We had our traditional Memorial Day picnic there after the service, because so few of us will be here next week. It was cozy, though we forgot blankets. The wind blew like the wind blows, but none of us minded. It was companionable with you and Grandma and Grandpa and all the others. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I could still hear Taps playing across the prairie from six months ago. The kids didn’t notice as they bopped from stone to stone and hung onto the pine trees. We kept warning them about getting sticky from sap, but they listened about like we did.

Well, I probably ought to turn in for the night. You probably ought to too, after this round of solitaire. Yes, I’ll sleep well, thanks. I always did kind of like it when you called me “kitten.” Mmm, I thought you might like the picture. I always did love that print. Grace. I can’t even remember where it was – was it in the kitchen? Simpler times, weren’t they?

Before I go, can I ask you a question?

Was it a good life? Were you happy here? Are all the things you were sorry for faded, leaving that rosy glowing memory of the picnics at the cemetery and the kitchen table chats? What do you remember most? What do you miss?

I miss you. I wish you were here to see my tomatoes and my kids, all growing and full of tangy bite. I miss the last years that weren’t like the earlier ones, but I’m glad for the years we had. I miss talking about the wheat and the weather as if our livelihood depended on it, with the stories of the old ones woven in for emphasis. I miss you.

Well, nothing served by moping. Say hello to Logan for me, and keep track of him, the little whipper-snapper. I suppose I’ll go mop up my face and turn in.

Sleep tight, Dad. Mmm, I love you too.

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