Grief sneaks up on you sometimes.
Like, on a nice quiet evening when I'm tired and just trying to wind down for my days off, flipping through the newest issue of Real Simple that came in the mail today. It's the Thanksgiving-themed issue and near the back there's a series of ways to make a basic stuffing and then jazz it up; there's cheddar-and-jalapeno, apple-and-walnut stuffing, all kinds of fun things to do with stuffing.
There's a recipe there for oyster-and-bacon stuffing.
And I smile at the thought, and start telling Jason about how my Grandma VanHoorn made this oyster dish for Thanksgiving all the time, and how Mom and Uncle Chuck and I were definitely going to take our share, but so many people really didn't like it, and maybe I could make oyster stuffing this year and it would be kind of the same-
and there's my chest, twisting up again, that open hole where the simple, concrete knowledge of her is threatening to grow wider and wider and wider. Not like when I first got the phone call; that memory is full of panic and guilt for being so far away and an urge to just start yelling until someone says okay and gives her back, because she is my Grandma and I only have the two and I want them both forever and ever, the part of grief that is always eternally a three year old throwing a tantrum.
This is a little more quiet, insidious; still gone is what I get now. Going to stay gone. No more oyster dish from her, never again. Won't hear her calling the barn cats to come for food, or get e-mails or letters or cards on Halloween, your first Halloween with no card from your Grandma VanHoorn. The first of so many. You should think about that for a while, until you can't think about anything else.
All this in a fraction of a second. So of course there are the tears; immediate and uncontrollable, just like they always are.
And so of course there is Jason, to hold on and bring me back from this; and eventually we decide that we will make some kind of oyster dish this year, see if I can figure out what Grandma did and try it myself. I even called Mom later to ask about it, and I think between the two of us we could figure it out and throw it together.
I remember the taste pretty vividly; it was one of the things I looked forward to on Thanksgiving, the daring fun as a little kid of trying a dish that so many people wouldn't eat because they didn't like oysters and the eventual love of the taste. I was always one of the first to dig in. I love oysters.
And, of course, the solid truth that Grandma VanHoorn would be bringing that oyster dish, she would be there at the back steps or the front stairs calling hello while my mother tried desperately to rouse me to be some kind of helpful and I spent the morning on the couch being so very deliciously not at school.
I'm probably going to make the oyster dish this year, and try as hard as I can to make it as close to Grandma VanHoorn's as possible.
I'm also going to try very hard not to tear up and start crying over my plate in front of my entire set of in-laws and my own parents, who are flying into South Carolina to come see us this year.
I'm going to try...
but I can't make any promises.