Grief and Summer Fruit

I bought a bag of cherries at Publix today, and then I cried my whole way home.

A year-and-a-half ago, my grandmother died. Grief is a funny thing. I don’t really know that “closure” exists, despite the awkward obsession with that word that seems to permeate funerals and the weeks after someone we love has passed.

I don’t have closure around my grandmother’s death. The wound sits in my soul like a freshly-scabbed sore, with its fragile “healing” and easily-reopened skin. I cry frequently, despite the 18 months that have passed since we last spoke. Little things make me cry … thinking about my wedding, seeing her picture on my mantle, talking about visiting her house again, bags of cherries and boxes of blueberries.

My grandmother was a special woman, an impeccable hostess. She was not the most amazing cook, but she was good and she loved parties. She loved people. She loved her family with a fierceness that matched her sharp personality, but behind the occasionally prickly and always bold New England persona, her heart was full of the desire to accommodate others. She never ate until everyone else’s plates were full. I hardly remember her eating, really … I can’t tell you what her favorite food was. I don’t think it mattered, as long as everyone else’s favorites were on the table.

Her two budget weaknesses were groceries and clothes, both of which I have inherited. I take pride in my table, my food, and my home, and I have her as the sole role model to thank for these passions. I love to entertain, to cook for my friends and family. I crave those moments because they tie me back to her, to long sweet summer nights filled with food and laughter and fresh fruit. Family and wine. Lightning bugs and soft New England breezes. These are the things I love most, and the things I want my children and grandchildren to remember me for, the way I remember her.

Summer was her season. Her refrigerator was as full as her house, which was packed full of family. I remember most the fruit salads. Fresh cherries, strawberries, blueberries … grapes, cut in half in the oddest fashion so our forks could spear them better. She loved fruit, and had it on her table all summer long, come drought and high prices. It was there. And it is what I remember the most.

I remember when the tables turned, during those last few summers that I lived with her in her giant house on Pleasant Street. She was too fragile to cook, really, though her appetite was the greatest it had been in my whole life. She suddenly craved hot dogs and ice cream, two things that my 105-pound grandmother would never have eaten before she got sick. I did her grocery shopping those summers. I bought the fruit, come drought and high prices, and I spent I-don’t-know-how-many-hours those 3 summers cutting up gorgeous fruit salads. Standing in the un-air-conditioned kitchen, with the breeze flowing in the windows, with her sitting at the table and the two of us just talking. About everything. Usually the news, and her untimely crush on Anderson Cooper, who she swore up and down was gay. We analyzed the nightly news, comparing our favorite anchors and their unfortunate replacements. We both loved Peter Jennings, and hated Dan Rather. We were kindred spirits, grandmother and granddaughter.

So bags of cherries and boxes of blueberries bring me to tears. I want to call her. I want to tell her about my wedding, which she would have loved. I want to tell her about my little house, and my job, and I want to talk about Anderson Cooper and tell her how much I truly hate Katie Couric. I want to take her to the grocery store again, and to spend hours just gabbing away and cutting up fruit salad. Those were the sweetest days. I ache for them now, as summer fruit starts to show up in the stores and we enter another of her favorite seasons without her.

I grieve today, as I grieved yesterday and will grieve tomorrow. I will cut fruit salad with my children and grandchildren, I will host parties for every reason and no reason. I will have a big house, with a grill and lots of bedrooms to fill with my family in my old age. I will remember my grandmother, and I will honor her with her favorite things: summer fruit and parties, friends and family, wine and good food.

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