Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dinner from an Empty Refrigerator

As I put down the red silicone scraper and step back from the stove, something pleasing catches my eye, something beautiful, this food. 

I'd worked only one job today, and my small group was canceled due to icy weather so ... when I arrived home, the luxury of time met me at the door. The studio apartment -- all 461 square feet of it -- has been home for the past year. Many might consider it small. It all depends on where you are coming from ... 

... and when arriving here I'd come from a bedroom plus bath where I'd lived as a guest and grandmother-in-residence for 14 months. Yes, my son and daughter-in-law were inviting, loving, gracious and welcoming. The kitchen, living room, kids' bedrooms, play room and family room were open to me almost any time and there was a spoken expectation that I'd join the family for dinner, which was wonderful ... and yet the introvert in me felt more comfortable upstairs, in my bedroom plus bath, listening to the muffled voices of the grandchildren reading or playing or squabbling or getting ready for bed.

Tonight, my meal, the food -- a southwestern rice with beans and corn served over sauteed breast of chicken with a heaping spoonful of cream cheese blended with sour cream and salsa, plus fresh chocolate chip cookies -- looked so inviting! I am not much of a cook and readily confess that I'd rather be eating ... enjoying the aromas, textures, flavors. The feel of the warm ceramic bowl in my hands, the balance of the well-crafted fork, inspire delight. 

I wash the dishes, including a carafe of way-too-old-to-consume pineapple juice left over from my January birthday. The refrigerator looks quite empty. In the digestive aftermath of the meal I move on, choosing to sit on the futon snuggled up with a soft grey lap blanket gifted me one Christmas by my niece. 

The apartment is quiet. I miss the muted voices of the grandchildren.

Traffic moving along the freeway that borders this apartment complex fades into the background, except for the occasional semi. Without looking out the sliding glass doors (the only window in this studio), my senses tell me almost instinctively what time it is. Evening darkness and steady noise point to the 7pm to 1am travel of city-dwellers and suburbanites. When I awaken in the night a hushed stillness indicates a sleeping community, the highway nearly deserted. Soft morning light and limited but growing noise signal early commuters avoiding rush hour traffic.

Despite the delightful meal and my comfort in this living space, evening is difficult. This is when I most wish to turn back the clock to when evening meals were shared by two, the life I had before my husband died. One of us cooked; the other did dishes. In the oasis between dinner and sleep we returned to the kitchen table for a game of Scrabble, or settled into rocking chairs to watch a movie. 

Decades ago (before we married) my husband and I were not surprised to discover Myers-Briggs assessments categorized me as an introvert. After nearly 1000 days a widow, there is a shift as the woman that is me slides closer to recluse. The grey kaleidoscope of living alone is slowly becoming my normal. The shapes and sounds and tastes of life are dulled by loneliness. 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

Perhaps that is why I took the photograph... to capture the colors and vibrant promise of the meal, to embrace delight, to remember the Lord is close.