Home > Uncategorized > The bed in the kitchen….

The bed in the kitchen….

carbondale0-6bd216e55056a36_6bd21820-5056-a36a-07949c8d0b044e97It’s one of my earliest memories. My father gathering the 6 of us kids into the station wagon (my twin brother and I and my youngest sister wedged in the back-back with the fold up seats on top of the spare tires) on a Sunday afternoon. And then the 30 minute drive to Carbondale, where Dad grew up. My grandfather was there, sharing a house with his 3 spinster (that’s what they were called in those less delicate days) sisters. It was very snow-white-ish, as one was only slightly less miserable than the next. Even at my young age it wasn’t hard to imagine why they never married.

My grandfather was dying on those Sunday afternoons. Cancer grabbed him and wouldn’t let go, so eventually they moved his bed downstairs into the kitchen so we could spend some time with him. My Dad and his brother would take turns shaving him, attending to his needs. His sisters were grateful for the break I suspect, although you’d never know it because to them anything other than miserableness was a sign of weakness. They could cook like demons though, and I can still smell the roast beef and mashed potatoes, and the cakes and cookies and all that stuff that folks used to do on Sunday’s that nobody does anymore because we’re too busy lying around on our smart phones complaining that things aren’t like they used to be.

Each kid would get a silver dollar each week. That was my grandfather’s thing. He must have had a room filled with them. My sister was the most greedy, and as my grandfather was a colossal ball-buster, he’d always pretend to run out of coins when it was her turn. Then she’d cry and he’d laugh and his sisters would call him all kinds of evil and eventually he’d relent and she’d go away happy. To me and my brother he might do the disappearing coin in the ear trick, and we’d be incredulous every time. I can’t remember his face. The one in my head I know I got from photos. I just remember the bed….and the coins…..and the smells. And eventually we’d be allowed to escape the grown-ups and go upstairs and watch television. My Dad and his brother would crack open some Genny Cream Ales, and sit with their father and they’d all pretend that nothing at all was wrong, which is what you did when you were Irish.

I was too young. I had nothing to compare any of this too. True, I’d never known anybody who had a bed in their kitchen, but maybe that’s just what old people did. I never knew anybody who had died. I guess I figured it would always be like this. We’d spend our Sunday’s here and eat roast beef and collect silver dollars forever.

And then we arrived one week and the bed was gone. And there was no more silver dollars. I’m sure my father explained it all to us, but I don’t remember a thing. I don’t remember the wake or the funeral. I just remember feeling sad because what we’d had, we would not have anymore. The trips became fewer and fewer, and eventually stopped altogether. The spinsters died like dominoes. The house was sold. This was what happened when people died, and I didn’t like it one bit.

And then my Uncle Chick, who was married to my mother’s sister Jayne, all of a sudden he had a bed in the kitchen too. I can remember it against the far wall wedged underneath the window. And I can’t remember his face either now, but I knew that one day soon we’d come visit the house in Dalton and he’d be gone too, because that’s what happened to old people who had beds in their kitchens. And it came to pass. Just like I thought it would. And then suddenly I wasn’t a kid anymore.

And now I see how brave these men were. They knew they were dying, but refused to be hidden away. If the kitchen was where everybody was gonna gather to smoke and drink and eat and laugh and be a family, well then that’s where they were gonna be. Raging against the dying of the light while smelling the roast beef.

So drag this damn bed down the steps and set it up near the window so I can get some sun and make it close to the fridge because I want to be able to offer my guests some Genny Cream Ale for they’re likely to be parched after that long drive. And while they’re at it I’ll have one too. One for the road as it were. And when I die put my picture on the mantle….but make sure it’s one where I’m wearing my good suit. It’s not hard to spot because it’s the one I was buried in. I want to keep my eye on all of you, but I want to look good doing it. And don’t worry kid. If you were too young to remember my face, just know this. I’ll always remember yours.

In a bit..


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Mariellen Lankowski
    February 14, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Love it. Very similar life story….You brought back all the feels, smells, and memories. ❤

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