prompt: the one who wasn’t there
It simply hadn’t been long enough. It had, of course, been very painful at the beginning but, time dulled it. Eventually, Lucy became accustomed to the ever-present, dull ache. The exception was mealtimes at her grandmother’s house. Then, the pain was as fresh as if it had just happened. The sight of the empty place setting before the unoccupied chair at the table where her grandfather should have been was too much. Now, with his birthday just a week away, Lucy couldn’t see how she could face it. The four months since his death just wasn’t long enough.
“Lucy, will you be here for dinner next Friday,” her grandmother asked. “I’m trying to decide what to cook.”
“I can be here,” Lucy replied. “But, Nonna, are you sure you want to do this? It might be sort of, well, I don’t know.” She sighed and looked at her hands folded in her lap.
Her grandmother sat down beside her on the sofa and patted her knee.
“Va tutto bene, la mia povera piccola Lucia.” She folded her hands in her lap, mirroring Lucy’s pose. “What do you think your nonno would do if he were in my position?”
Lucy was silent a moment, giving that some thought. Then, she gave a little laugh.
“W. W. N. D.? We could put it on a t-shirt,” Lucy said. She sobered and added, “He would have a party for you.”
“He would, indeed,” Nonna agreed. “In fact, I expect he’d get carried away and spend too much, just because I wouldn’t be there to stop him.” She chuckled. “Family meant so much to your grandfather, Lucy. His favorite times were when we were all gathered at that table.”
“Oh, I know,” Lucy said. “You’re right, of course. Those were our favorite times, too. It’s just that it is still so hard to see his chair and not see him. And then, you actually set a place for him and we all just go on talking and passing dishes and eating as if nothing had changed.” Lucy blinked hard, trying to dispel the gathering tears. “I don’t think I’m ready to do that, especially not on his birthday.”
“I understand your problem now,” said Nonna. “You see that place as empty.” She shook her head and smiled. “Think, Lucy. You know better than that. Do you remember when you were little and you stayed the night with us without your parents for the first time?”
“I was so scared,” Lucy said. “Even though you and Nonno were here with me, I was so afraid of being alone.”
“And what did Nonno tell you?” The tears slid down Lucy’s cheeks unchecked, now, but she smiled. “He said he’d always be here, no matter what,” she answered. “He said he’d be with me even when I closed my eyes to sleep and couldn’t see him.”
“So, you’ll be at dinner on Friday,” Nonna said. It wasn’t a question this time.
“Yes, I’ll be here. Make your lamb ossobucco. It’s his favorite and he’ll be counting on it.”