I’m so stressed I could cry.
Grandpa Allen is going to give the thanksgiving blessing.
He hates praying. He hates thinking and most of all, he hates speaking. I don’t know how he managed to get to the table.
His cane isn’t anywhere near the table. I wonder how he managed to walk here. The wooden chair he’s chosen has a back straighter than his usual hunched posture. I wonder if his toes hurt. He tends to walk with his toes curled.
I have not seen him since my sweet sixteenth birthday, barely four years ago. I cannot believe time has left him this unchanged.
It is as if he were a stone statue that did not move, breathe or dare to live in the four years since I have seen him at Grandma Joan’s funeral. Somehow, as I am sitting at his left and watching the chiseled angles of his wrinkled face, he seems more like a statue than anything.
This is making my head hurt.
But he’s not scowling. I can’t tell if he’s smiling, but he isn’t glaring a hole in Mom’s almond-colored tablecloths.
There is silence spread so thick over the holiday table that the celebration feels as if it has been crammed into the corners of a room too small to contain it. No one has dared to speak yet. I don’t know if I ought to be breathing so loudly.
It feels as if my heart is stuck.
Grandma Joan used to give the thanksgiving blessing every year until she died. No one has dared to replace her in tradition for the past four years. There is always something awkward and stiff recited before we can pick up our forks and knives.
I hate it.
But Grandpa Allen is sitting at the head of the table, where Grandma Joan would’ve sat. He is sitting with his hands folded, elbows propped up on the table. There is ice in his eyes, sweat on his brow and iron in his sagging jaw.
There is still silence.
Uncle Dave cleared his throat loudly. All the heads on both sides leaned forward and turned to the side to look at him.
It feels as if I am living in a comic strip.
I must find my voice.
“Are you going to-” I swallowed. “-say the blessing?”
“Preferably before the turkey gets cold.” Uncle Dave muttered, looking away from the disapproving glares directed towards him.
“Gramps?” I wondered if I should stomp on his foot.
“Don’t know.” He managed, but his clasped hands tightened, faint spots showing at his clenched knuckles.
My mouth is dry. Now I remember all sorts of things from Grandma Joan’s crooked smiles to Grandpa Allen’s absence in anything church-related.
It feels really strange.
But he is looking at me with the ice in his eyes and the silence in the air that seems wrapped tight around his throat.
I don’t know what to say.
He doesn’t know what to say.
No one says anything.
“I think Grandma Joan would’ve been happy.”
He snorted. “Haven’t said nothin’ yet.”
“Can’t do that, kipper.” He wrinkled his nose. “Can’t just feed the Lord any old junk that tromps through this thick skull.”
I blushed. “R-right.”
The rest of the family shifted uncomfortably in their straight-backed chairs and stifling formal wear. I thought I heard a few stomachs growl.
I almost said something again, before I realized that Gramp’s eyes were closed. So I bowed my head and waited.
He would find something good to say.
He would say something special.
A happy tickle danced in my stomach. It was a reality creeping slowly through the edges of my head, a reminder of a prayer I’d prayed years ago.
Something about asking God to please save my grandpa, because I didn’t know what else to do. Asking Him to save a stubborn old man, so I could see him again someday. It was purely selfish of me.
But it was just like the cookie-cutter ‘blessing’ we’d been reciting for the past four years.
I’d spout off a nighttime prayer without checking the words I prayed night after night. I hadn’t thought to revise, to check or change. I’d been static. But God had still worked in his own way.
Grandpa Allen’s going to give the thanksgiving blessing.
I’m so happy I could cry.
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