I read this piece at Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts event “Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour” on August 12, 2015 following a trip back to my family’s home of Upstate, NY. This is dedicated to my grandmother, Jeanette Doyle, and all of us who love her so.
I slide into the backseat of my Gram’s teal Toyota Camry. My feet ache from stomping the tile floors of Sangertown Shopping Center, the local mall of the Utica, NY “metro area”– Charlotte Russe, Aeropostale, both a Hot Topic and a Spencer’s Gifts– this mall had all the haunts of a middle schooler’s Friday night out dreams. The only stores of interest for our party were H&M– the cheap and trendy shop for my sister and I to try on a bunch of clothes we did not need, and Macy’s which is basically a place of worship for my 88 year old Grama. She Christmas shops and harasses sales associates there year round.
Now in the car it was time to choose a restaurant. We settle on Symon’s, a successful family-owned and operated Greek restaurant in Upstate, NY. It was an establishment. My mom loops the handicap sign over the rearview mirror as I loop my arm under Gram’s and escort her across the threshold of the restaurant.
Passing the area used for de-snowing your boots and checking your coat in winter as well as the glass cases of Greek pottery and images of Christos, we make our way to the hostess podium. Before we are seated we run into an old friend, and their family.
“We want your warmest table.”
“Is that air conditioning goin’?!”
We are seated in the front dining room. “Brrrrrr! It’s cold in here!” As she pulls her Irish wool, cable knit sweater around her shoulders.
“I always get the same thing. What are you having? What sounds good to you?” When the waitress comes around to her, “I’ll have a cup of decaf, but only once you make it nice and fresh.”
“What’s your soup today?… Is that good? Do you like it? Well, I’ll just have a taste of that.”
After eating all of the sample cup she shakes her head sharply, informing our server, “No, I can’t have roughage.”
Taking a sip of her freshly brewed and poured coffee, “Well, that isn’t very hot, is it?” All the Doyle women insist on ingesting only the utmost scalding of liquids, hot tea, hot coffee, hot soup, every sip must be just beneath the boiling point, reheated an astounding number of times even for a small cup.
As we begin to eat our meal the conversation transitions abruptly to the death of someone I have no recollection whatsoever of meeting, let alone hearing word of, before. My Gram knows someone who has died of every cause under the sun, including a cousin who choked on a peanut and died. My sister and I are still in disbelief on that one, because honestly, how many cousins did Gram even have to begin with? Did we even ever pin down a hard number?!
As we promenade arm in arm from the door of the restaurant to the comfort of her car and then travel the winding country roads back to number 152 West Bacon Street in the village of Sangerfield– otherwise known as DDDDDangerfield, Gram says softly, “I’ll be lost without you when you go.”
Me too, Gram, me too.