Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I wonder if I could have dinner with one person, who would it be?

She is 50 years old, the oldest she will ever be. She is a large woman with light brown hair, almost auburn, and with round rosy cheeks and dimples in her elbows. I have never heard her voice, but I imagine it to be a little high, a bit thin, but sweet. Like my mother’s and mine, only with a heavy Pittsburgh accent. In my imagination she is nervous, but quick to laugh.

I think the conversation would start a little awkwardly. We have very little in common, this lady and I. She is a devout Catholic, mother to seven children, very poor. I think she finished high school, though I’m not sure. If she ever left Pennsylvania, I never heard of it. My youth spent footloose and traveling is about as far from her life experience as it gets, although she might have been happy to know that her lifetime of work yielded material benefit two generations down the line.

Well. Half a lifetime of work. She did not get her full allotment. Fifty years is not enough time. If she’d had fifty-three, she would have met me.

I would have to somehow tell her my whole life story in the course of one dinner, which would mean a considerable amount of summary. I would want to hear her life story, too. I would want to know what my mother was like as a child. I would want to know if she and her son Michael and my Pap are all together again somewhere. I would let her pick the meal, and I would have to read everything into the food she chose, whether or not she prepared it herself or had it served, how she held her fork. How she styled her hair. The course of a dinner is not enough time to know a person, but I would take it over absolutely nothing.

I knew my paternal grandparents very well – they lived with us for quite some time when I was a kid, having made no other arrangements for the infirmity of advanced age. Five small children, two very old and ill grandparents, two very tired members of the Sandwich Generation, and four bedrooms did not a particularly harmonious household make. But we got by, and they were grandparental-like, in their way. I knew my maternal grandfather, a loving, gruff, Santa Claus kind of man who spent most of his meager pension on his eighteen grandchildren, somehow giving each of us equal attention and love.

I’d love to have dinner with the one grandparent whose face I only know from my mother’s wedding pictures. From the first time I got this essay question in grade school, to now, to forever from now, I think this would be my answer. I’d love to have dinner with my mother’s mother.

Like the lovely Italian city, her name was Florence.

1 comment:

Wicked M said...

This is really a lovely entry. I so wish that you had gotten to meet her in this lifetime, but I have a feeling you will get that dinner with her eventually.