“The world begins at a kitchen table.  No matter what, we must eat
to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.  So it has
been since creation, and it will go on.”
— Joy Harjo, from “Perhaps the World Ends Here”

The kitchen table is smaller now

The kitchen table is smaller now

My Dad’s kitchen table is smaller now than the big rectangular one we gathered around in my childhood.  Then that table was the center of our lives.  We ate countless breakfasts, dinners, and suppers there.  We did our homework at that table.  We played cards and games and colored and drew on that oilcloth-covered surface.

“Tables are trustworthy:
titanic quadrupeds,
they sustain
our hopes and our daily life.”
— Pablo Neruda, “Ode to the Table”

Isn’t it remarkable that poets have written about our kitchen tables!  These wise poets know what is important in life.

Dad eating supper at the kitchen table

Dad eating supper at the kitchen table

Saying grace  after the meal: "We give thee thanks . . ."

Saying grace after the meal: “We give thee thanks . . .”

What Remains

July 8, 2013

“It’s all life until death.”
— Grace Paley

My 94-year-old Dad and the old farm house where he lives

My 94-year-old Dad and the old farm house where he lives

Our family has been blessed with Dad’s long life.  If one of the central questions of our humanity is how to live our lives, trying to figure this out can become a bewildering predicament if we live to a very old age.  While staying with my 94-year-old Dad, I was reminded that one’s value and worth should not depend on what you do, but rather should be inherent in simply being.  Because at 94, life has slowed considerably, and a good day is not filled with lots of activities or accomplishments, but with moments of doing nothing.

A full life is inevitably filled with losses, grief and suffering.  But this post will focus on what remains, what my father is still able to do and enjoy.

Every morning of my stay, Dad cooked breakfast for both of us — usually bacon, eggs, and toast, with tomato juice or half a grapefruit, and once, pancakes.

Dad making breakfast

Dad making breakfast

A cup of instant coffee with every meal

A cup of instant coffee with every meal

And after every meal, Dad helped wipe the dishes.

Dad at the kitchen sink

Dad at the kitchen sink

Putting the clean dishes into the cupboard

Putting the clean dishes into the cupboard

On Mondays, laundry day, and Dad still used the old Maytag wringer machine to wash his clothes and then he hung them on a line to dry outside.

Hanging his laundry

Hanging his laundry

Mowing the vast lawn, a summer job, took several hours (with rest breaks).

Dad mowing the lawn

Dad mowing the lawn

Through the window

Through the window

Dad is now the oldest person in his parish.  He always said grace before and after meals.

"Bless us O Lord . . ."

“Bless us O Lord . . .”

Dad still read the local weekly paper and bought the Minneapolis paper on Sundays.

Reading the paper

Reading the paper

Reading the paper in Dad's favorite chair

Reading the paper in Dad’s favorite chair

Dad continues to play cards — cribbage and solo.  He gets together with two of his sisters, his brother-in-law, and son for a weekly card game.  They take turns hosting the games and then go out to eat after hours of playing cards.

Playing cribbage

Playing cribbage

The days were full of dozing and naps.

Dad at rest

Dad at rest

And all of these things made for good days.  For that we are grateful.

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