"Muldoon's," the sign said; "Now Open for Breakfast."
Well, I didn't want breakfast. I wanted soup because my stomach was kindof bothering me. But the other two -- Steve & Mary -- did want breakfast & they were making noises & I figured this place would probably have soup on the menu since it was about 12 noon on a Sunday.
We were heading back from Boston after picking up Steve to go to the funeral of Mary's mother in Taunton, Massachusetts.
* * *
It had been at 2:30 in the morning, the Friday before, when we got the hysterical call from Mary's sister Rita. Grammy's house had burned; burned down, we first thought. And Grammy was dead.
Though she was ninety-two -- would have been ninety-three in just another month and a half -- and you always figured at some point there would be a call, it was still a terrible shock. Death never comes gently to those left behind.
I held Mary tightly -- that's about all you can do; I know it had helped me when my Mom went. And a little later, as we were laying there, she said -- & the words stuck with me because I knew so well what she meant -- "There's nobody left."
It's funny, but I guess now we are the older generation. As long as your mother is living, it's like there's an invisible string connecting you. But then, suddenly, you're alone.
* * *
So the menu in Muldoon's restaurant listed "Homemade Soup" and French onion -- "with lots of cheese" -- and chile. Neither of the latter sounded very good for my stomach, so when the waitress came to take our order, I asked, "What's the homemade soup?"
"Kale soup," she replied.
"What?" I asked.
"Kale soup. That's 'K - A - L - E,' kale."
"Oh," I said; "Is it any good?"
"Oh yes," she said, "It's really very good."
And then, as I looked at her & hesitated, in my own mind trying to figure if kale soup could be good, she repeated herself, "It's really very good."
Steve later tried to say that she knew I had a hearing problem & that's why she said it again. But I think it was the somewhat questioning look on my face. I like Swiss chard. And boiled beet greens are delicious. But I hate turnip greens. And although I had never eaten kale, I had seen it served & it sounded & looked more like turnips than chard or beet greens. So that probably accounted for my hesitancy.
But I said, "O.K., I'll have the kale soup." It turned out to be pretty good -- probably because there wasn't that much kale in it. I guess it's a Portuguese soup, because it had kidney beans, little chunks of new potato with the skin still on, sliced-up sausage of some sort & I think some other meat, all in a rich beef-tasting broth of some sort.
Anyhow, when the waitress brought us the bill, she asked, "How was the kale soup?"
And I said it was good, which made me remember when Steve & Mary & I had visited the Ocean Spray cranberry visitor's center at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the summer before when we were on vacation. Very interesting -- tells you more about cranberries & cranberry growing than you could possibly think to ask. And when you finish, they have a little snack bar where they serve you little free glasses of various kinds of juices. Like cran-apple, cran-raspberry, cran-peach & so on.
And, as we tested, I asked Steve about each of them; how did he like them? And each time he allowed as how they were O.K. And finally he added, "except they all have this cranberry taste."
So when I responded to the waitress' question about how I like the soup, I was tempted to say, "Well it was great -- except for the kale taste!"
But I didn't.
* * *
I don't know if you can call a funeral "nice," but Grammy's was, if not nice, at least entirely appropriate. All of her nine kids & their spouses were there plus a number of the twenty-seven grandchildren & even a few of the thirty great-grandchildren, which will go up to thirty-three in the next few months when Carolyn, Monica and Sally have their babies.
There were all kinds of flowers -- thirty-one or thirty-two beautiful sprays there in the funeral home and then taken out to the grave site. The priest, Monsignor Connelly, gave a really moving talk. You could tell he had been touched by Grammy's life -- and death. He spoke -- in a deep and rich voice with just a hint of an Irish brogue -- of this little Italian woman who didn't speak English that well & her garden & how she would bring flowers to the church.
How she walked the two blocks every day to Mass & then stayed afterwards to pray in the chapel. How she would bring him fruit and other things ". . . all wrapped up and tied at the top with a piece of yarn and a note with not only my name but also my title. And then she would hand it to me. And sometimes you weren't sure what she was giving you or why."
That last touched me -- and other folks mentioned it later as well.
I guess the top of my memories are hearing her voice when you were absolutely stuffed -- because her food was so good -- from having eaten too much stuffed peppers and meatballs & spaghetti and spaghetti sauce -- nobody could match Grammy's spaghetti sauce -- and then she would say, "You wanna some cake?" Except it sounded more like "kek." And when you replied, no, you were full up to here, she would say, "Then heva doughnut. You wanna donut?" No Grammy -- no.
Before we left Taunton, we went over to the house at 14 Church Street and dug up some plants from Grammy's garden -- to take back as sort of a living remembrance. And Mary remonstrated with me for digging up too many. And I replied -- and I kindof choked up as I did, but I don't know if she noticed -- "Hey, if Grammy were here, we'd have twice as many."
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