A Vignette

Lamb Chops

He’s sitting in the family room on the chair which has become his, through respect. His solid shoulders are a definition of his character. He doesn’t know I am watching. Does he wait for my gentle reach? Standing beside him, I lay my hand on his head, fingers drawing lines through his white hair. “What?” he wants to know of my gesture. I don’t answer. I don’t need to see his face. I can feel his smile on the tips of my fingers. I think of when I first met him. Curly brown hair, and hazel eyes. Eyelashes that should have been a woman’s… but now no longer anyone’s envy, just remnants left over by a flash of welder’s flame. The skin of his hands crusted and rough from building houses… and how he can’t forget the hard work as a little boy and in his youth. Memories he can’t let go of. Would he have been less of a man had he been able to roll it all off his shoulders? “What are you thinking?” I ask. “Nothing,” he replies. His thoughts are his. He shares them freely only when he’s had too many glasses of wine. That’s when he lets his pain and tenderness escape. I give his hair one last ruffle and tell him that supper is ready. He takes hold of my hand. Then as if there were a sudden need to assert himself, he lets my hand go. “I will get up by myself,” he tells me. At the table, I tell him how much I hate the smell of lamb chops even after 59 years of cooking them for him. He keeps on eating. Finally, he says, “Your mother learned to eat them when she was 85. My response is a chuckle, followed by the question, “Are you predicting?” He shrugs and lets it be. I am happy to continue eating my fried chicken and watching funny videos on Utube. I don’t bother reminding him that my father was not as fond of lamb meat as he is, and my mother didn’t have to cook something different for herself as often. When supper is over, I ask him how the food was. He replies, “It didn’t say anything,” an old country saying that it is okay, or maybe even more than just good. I pretend not to see his smile. It’s the same smile that drew me to him the first time I met him. A smile that hides joy and the hurts inflicted on him by his father, a man who never showed affection to his sons. I want to reach across to him but hold back. I don’t want him to see my eyes wet with tears. Instead, I begin to take the dishes to the counter and think aloud, “Well, I guess I will be cooking lamb chops forever.” I don’t expect a response. He’s heard it before and no longer opposes my stubbornness. We both find comfort in certain exchanges of familiarity.
By Delia De Santis

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