Today is Grandpa’s birthday. He’s 82. Our world is very different today than it was two summers ago. He and Grandma are side-by-side once again, but the journey of aging has not been easy for either of them. Grandma, at 91, is on hospice. Grandpa is still fighting to regain as much of his independence as possible. But today is a day to celebrate, to reflect on that last big party and the joy of being family . . .
Side-by-side in the kitchen Mom dices bell peppers as I wash raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries.
We spend a summer afternoon rotating from counter to sink to stove. She preps the Italian casserole for Grandpa’s 80th birthday party, and I work on the trifle components: the lemon-sour cream pound cake has finished cooling before I prepare the mixed-berry sauce and cook the lemon curd. She finishes the main dish and moves on to making piecrusts.
Sometimes we sing a line of the hymns playing in the other room. Between measuring and stirring we reminisce about each of our earliest hymn memories: words we didn’t understand and whom we asked for clarity; the rich language we were both drawn to as children and cling to as adults.
We easily work together and alone. We switch sides so she can stir at the stove for me while I open a new bag of flour for her. Her hands tip the pan as I scrape the berry sauce into its container to wait for the trifle assembly tomorrow morning.
As she shreds the chicken and I zest the lemons Mom talks about the struggle of watching her parents age. Their table and chairs arrived in her dining room yesterday as they downsize to a smaller apartment in their retirement home. Last night she tried on gloves her mom and grandmother once wore. Grandma’s teacups are being gifted to three generations of daughters.
It’s good to be together. To let the words ease out as we work. To feel the week slip away as the pastry blender cuts through the dough and the butter melts into the lemon curd.
Just as Mom’s hugs are the only hugs that can calm the roiling emotions and tears of growing up whether I’m 15 or 32, sharing the kitchen with her is deep therapy. It reinforces how very, very much she’s taught me, how talented she is, how profoundly she loves her family, how food is a language we both speak to those we love . . . how thoroughly I am her daughter.
The rhythm of home pulses loudest in the kitchen with Mom steadily keeping the beat for us all.