My grandmother never sat at the head of the dining room table. She never started the political debates instigated by wine, and she never challenged my grandfather when he'd turn and say, "Well light of my life, I think it's time you take me home". She did always make 10 pounds of heavenly mashed potatoes. And stroke the upper right corner of her place mate while listening to political debates instigated by wine. She did always make a point to ask me about school, and compliment my jewelry, from Claire’s, while her original pieces hugged her chest. She never sat at the head of the dining room table, but she was the table. She still is the table.
She has been cut down and sawed through, polished and marveled at. A matriarch beneath an ironed ivory cloth, my grandmother is our base. Her water marks and veins like half-finished crossword puzzles. She's been scratched, like elementary detention desks and they shine, even in the shadows. Her stains, all the same texture, all different road maps. My grandmother, was my family's best kept secret. Partially because we took her for granted, but mostly because she never told a lesson, she showed it.
I can't remember my grandmother ever sitting my cousins and me around, telling stories. She never discussed the times when it was illegal for her to sit at a bar. Or how she flipped her car off the road to avoid hitting a dog. Or her radiation treatments. Or the deep purple, crescent moon indents on her shins. She never told us how she signed every card to my grandfather with "I.L.Y.M", I love you more.
Her stories were in the goofy purses she would make out of jeans. Or the collages aligned throughout the hallways of her home, cruises to Monte Carlo and Liverpool. Her stories are the treasures she found at garage sales and the luck she sought out in blue beach glass. Her stories are in her keepsakes, the belongings sifted through after she became an angel. Along with every makeshift book about cats I had written as a child, was a watch from my grandfather, engraved on the back "I.W.A.L.Y.M", I will always love you more.
After 62 years of watching my grandmother make the 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, my grandfather was able to keep the tradition going. His tears were the salt in the boiling water, the skin of the potatoes through the ricer, and the froth of the melted butter. When he wept over his plate that first Thanksgiving, it was silent and expected. Just the way my grandmother had taught us to love.
When we gather here, around my grandmother, my fingers graze the wood maybe as I would have her casket. Or maybe as I would have her high cheek bones, the same ones I have. The same ones my granddaughter will have years from now, when I am just a table.
When my grandfather is ready to go, he looks at the other head of the table and says, "Well Richard, I think it's time you take me home".