A Meal is Never Just a Meal
Posted by : Alex Mills /
My grandparents were just in our home for a meal.
My daughter's great-grandparents. She's lucky to have a set of them.
We just moved closer, and I haven't seen them much at all in the last 10 or so years. Somehow, at some point, they turned 86. My grandfather walks with a limp from a stroke, and my grandmother navigates a staircase slowly and carefully after a bad fall a while back.
It's weird to see them that way – poignant and surreal.
To me they are still the energetic, beloved grandparents I saw several times a year growing up. Mamer and Macker we call them – whose laps I couldn't wait to crawl into for a story.
My grandfather always excited about some new pet project... a pergola in the backyard, or a new business idea. My grandmother's sharp intellect tempered by her steady, practical disposition.
Seeing them age feels sort of out-of-body, like something has been shoved out of place but you aren't quite sure what.
Meal preparation has gotten a bad wrap from me.
I resent the constant need of everyone around me to eat. And that it generally falls on me to satisfy that need.
While I enjoy the fun, creative, dinner-party style of cooking, the daily, mundane stuff gets so old. Maintenance cooking I call it, necessary to keep everyone alive. I guess I am not a maintenance person.
Wait – it's time to start cooking? AGAIN. We literally just did that. Literally three hours ago, I finished the dishes from lunch, and now I have to cook another meal.
When will this end? Never? Good to know.
When my grandparents arrived, we sat with them catching up on all the stuff one catches up on. What projects they're working on. How they're feeling.
Despite their advancing age, my grandparents have always worked. They've never made a fuss about it, and have always had cool little things going on. My grandfather, an avid amateur painter is teaching a painting class at a local high school. My grandmother makes the rounds on her Avon customers.
By the way, if you ever find yourself on her Christmas list, you can expect to receive Avon body wash, jewelry, purses...
The truth is that part of this is by necessity. While they would likely want to continue working because they are active, interested people, the work meets a financial need too. They've got social security. It doesn't go too far.
But as we sat there catching up, I realized... their whole lives, whether in plenty or in want, they have always made it work. It's truly one of their gifts. They don't complain, they just get it done. With whatever resources they have at the time.
I sat there stunned to really understand them in a way I never had before. 35 years into our relationship, I saw a new part of their character to appreciate – an aspect I respect, admire, want to emulate.
All because we made plans to share a meal together.
It was time to eat. At the very last minute, I felt like we needed that one more thing on the table to fill everything out. I sliced up some avocado and lemon and threw it all on a platter. The presentation was nothing Instagram worthy, but it helped finish things off.
“Avocado – what a delicacy!” my grandmother exclaimed. “We never eat avocado.”
A little startled, it took me a minute to digest what she was saying. Avocado is not on the menu for them. They don't buy it. It's a special occasion thing.
They've don't eat the stuff that I have long taken for granted – a couple slices of avocado to accompany a meal. To provide some of the healthy fats that our bodies need.
I hope I was able to give them a gift in that moment – nourishment they need. Or a moment of pleasure they may not enjoy every day.
Moreover, in my resentment of the mundane meal-making tasks on my daily to-do list, I had perhaps missed a gift I can give those I love. And missed opportunities to know my people in a different environment, at a deeper level. While they relax around a (hopefully) delicious meal, prepared with love.
Meals together create connection with those in our life. We gain insight into what makes them, them. Those moments are meat on the skeletons of our lives.
Time spent over a meal with those we love is never just a meal.