Dan has prepared fish, small fillets skinned and marinated to take away the mud flavor. His wife, Christie, has cooked white beans and corn and puts a pan of cornbread into the oven. While she makes a salad and Dan and his brother, Ben, cook the fish on the back porch, I pitch to Reese, who just turned six last Sunday. We are using his new ball and bat and he is doing pretty well for a just-turned-six-year-old. When he finally strikes out, he insists on pitching to me. So, I oblige with the enthusiasm of a grandpa.
When the cooking is done, we gather in the kitchen for prayer before the serve yourself off the stove supper. I go into the living room and bring Granny in to join us. On the way, she asks me, “What size family do you have?” and is startled by the answer. “You have a large family!”
Choked by the sadness of loosing my mother before she dies, I verge on breaking down in front of the whole group. My throat tightens and my eyes water for a moment. And, then, I say to myself, “This is who she is now, Harold. Accept it and move on.”
She eats a good supper, finishing her plate soon after the rest of us. She joins me in a dessert of cornbread and honey and then takes the last piece of fish when we have managed to convince her no one else wants it.
During the goodbyes, she tells Dan, “You have a wonderful family.” As I am walking her to the car, she tells me “You have a wonderful family.” She lost her husband almost two years ago, a little more weight and much of her memory but she has become sweeter, gentler and more appreciative. Sometimes life puts on us a better trade than we would have made voluntarily.
Driving through the darkness back over to Coldwater, I start singing old hymns. She joins me halfway through the first verse, singing harmony.
Through ten miles and five songs, she doesn’t miss a single note or word.