I silently opened my back door and stepped in. The rich, delicious smell of roast beef filled the air. Stopping a moment to enjoy the scent of home and family, I glanced around. There were fourteen shoes of varying sizes scattered about on the long entryway rug.
Stepping over and around the shoes, I slowly opened the dining room door, thinking that perhaps I’d surprise my grandchildren. I found two-year-old Gemma standing near the table, looking at a small plastic figurine in her hand. Seeing me didn’t seem to surprise her. I guessed she expected me to be there and so there I was. She came for a hug.
Hearing the sound of horses galloping, I went to the doorway of the living room. Six of Gemma’s brothers and sisters were watching an old Ponderosa television show. They chorused, “Hi Grandma!”
I said, “Doesn’t the roast smell good? I put it into the crock pot this morning before I went to work.”
Five year old Jacob said, “I hungy. You have bread?” Seven-year-old Luke and nine-year-old Ben said they were hungry, too.
I chuckled to myself. The three musketeers were always hungry. They look and act very similarly, prompting one of my sisters to comment, “How did Niki manage having the same child more than once?”
“We’ll have supper soon.” I said. “I just have to make mashed potatoes. I’ll give you some apple slices to hold you over.”
My daughter Niki and I have had a long-standing arraignment. I babysit my grandchildren every Tuesday afternoon while she goes to Eucharistic Adoration. Now that the oldest are twelve, fourteen and sixteen-years-old, Claire, Jon and Anne can hold the fort for me until I can get home when I have to work, like today.
In the kitchen I pulled a bag of potatoes out of the cupboard and began to prepare them. As I worked, I thought about my daughter and six-month-old Blaise. Her small babies go wherever she goes because she nurses them. A year from now he will be more of a distraction in the chapel. Then he will begin to stay at my house with the others.
I have always loved Tuesdays with my daughter and grandchildren, but since my husband died eight years ago, the day has grown to be a bright spot of the week. Instead of a silent, empty widow’s house, this old farmhouse is filled with life and noise.
Tuesdays at my house through the years have seen Anne dressing herself, Jon and Claire in my sister’s old prom dresses for a fashion show. I’ve been the audience for impromptu dance recitals and charades. The Three musketeers held their own fashion show years later, wearing the prom dresses and babushka scarves, while giggling hysterically. We’ve played cards, chased Frisbees on the back lawn and even worked in my garden. Watching old television shows like Little House On the Prairie and The Waltons is a treat.
Our Tuesdays together keep morphing as the children get older and our life circumstances change. After their grandpa Arnie died, I noticed that Niki made a point of visiting a little longer with me after she returned from town. Sometimes she and the children come early on my days off to have lunch with me.
The biggest change came since Niki’s husband died on the day baby Blaise was born. She no longer has to get home early to make supper for Mike. Like me, she often seems at loose ends in the evenings despite all of her children. Most Tuesdays we now have supper together. In my mind, I call our meal, the widow’s supper.
Despite the name I have given to our meal, we do not mope or sigh sadly as we eat. Sharing a table with eight children is like taking a trip in a clown car. I told my daughter that Arnie and Mike loved us. They wanted us to be happy and healthy. To honor them, we must thrive, despite our devastating losses. By doing things together as a family, we are strengthened and able to do that.