My grandson’s first birthday was this last weekend. It was a wheel-based affair, in keeping with his unabashed love for all things rolling.
The oldest man in the room, my grandson’s great-grandfather, sits at the kitchen table, unmoored in time, drifting among the years he spent in the Navy.
“Where’s Pearl?” he suddenly exclaims.
I remember him taking The Boy and me to the Swedish Institute when they had a Viking ship on display. He took us to lunch afterwards, and I ordered the chicken breast in aspic, just to impress him.
Aspic, for those not raised in the 18th century, is a meat gelatin.
I sit down opposite him at the table. I can see that he doesn’t recognize me, and I swallow hard.
We stare into each other’s eyes. Slowly, he remembers. He leans across the table and pats my hand. “You’re very pretty,” he says. He winks.
I smile – he always told me I was pretty. I stand up, walk to his side, but he’s gone, back to the early 1950s, when he is young and strong and stationed in the Philippines. “It’s just beautiful, the water. Just look at it.”
I run a hand across his shoulders and head back to the living room, where my grandson is spinning the wheels of his new tractor, and my ribcage feels too small.