The day after Mama died, my sons and I cooked a big dinner for the family. My mind is blurry on the details of what we made but I remember the journey from stove to table took hours. I also remember the pride we felt as steam rose from the plates and bowls clanking beneath serving forks and spoons. All the Danleys were there: my sister, her two sons, my brother and his wife, my nieces, my children. All the Danleys except one. Mama. I remember waiting, foolishly, for her to come around the corner and taste what we had made. I kept anticipating her voice, shrill and southern saying, what’s this? Let me taste it? That’s pretty good. I wondered when she would enter the kitchen, with its immaculate wood floor and sparkly faucet, and start sweeping a floor that couldn’t get any cleaner. I knew she would have on her wig and her houseclothes, a roomy tee shirt and polyester pants cut into shorts, riding her knees. I could not bring myself to believe that Mama would never come into the kitchen again. (Hold on. Let me try to sit with that for a minute). Would never sweep a clean floor cleaner. Would never taste and critique the food I badly wanted her to love. Would never rearrange the turkey bacon and grapes  in the fridge so that the shelves were neat, each item easy to see. Shelves scrubbed. Death is  hyperbole. Words like forever and always make perfect sense when you lose a loved one. Mama will always be gone. She will forever be physically apart from me. I wear those words like a wool cape.  When my shoulders get tired, I try to slip off the cape but it keeps creeping back up on me. Now I see that day’s meal exactly for what it was: dress rehearsal. We were preparing ourselves for the infinite (there’s another one of those death-appropriate words) number of meals we will now have without her. Hundreds of Christmases and Thanksgivings minus Mama. Each bite felt surreal, felt wrong, but somehow we made it through dinner, every last plate licked clean, washed and towel dried. Lord bless us. If only I could remember what we ate.
%d bloggers like this: