The meeting is about to start. I just get Grandma and myself inside, after having run from the last meeting, just before the gavel sounds. To my delight, the meeting has, I guess, about 100 attendees. Maybe more!
To my chagrin, I see once we walk in, several people have saved a place for Grandma and me up front – front row, near the doors to the gymnasium. While that helps me direct her without having to fight obstacles, that means we are already, and still, somehow a focus of this effort. I do realize I’ve been the most vocal leading up to this point, but I’ve become quiet in the discourse, hoping I would be replaced in the fight.
I sit down with Grandma, and I turn my back to the crowd and push my shoulder against hers to create a sort of wall. People are trying to quietly speak with us here and there, almost cheer us on. On occasion, I turn my head just a little and throw a head nod to one of the elder ladies adjacent to us in order to show some level of courtesy and acknowledgment, then I turn back to the stage.
Grandma tells me to pull out the big tray of black and white cookies, that we can have them here. I am a little excited, imagining the swirl cookies that are one of my favorites. She says the black and whites are good, aren’t they? I nod, but am actually sad. I only had a “black and white” once, after Holly told me they are amazing. They aren’t. I was sad I was wrong about the pinwheel cookies. I remember to thank God for a second that maybe he’s sparing me from indulging.
I pull a rotisserie chicken out of my tote bag, and my favorite yellow stoneware round dish (the one Momma Bull bought me). I begin carving the chicken so Grandma and I have food at intermission. I want to take care of us, and to give us healthy food for dinner. The meeting started early and will run late.
After I get the breasts and a leg carved off, Grandma takes the plate and turns to hand it to the elder lady adjacent to us – who is excitedly and eagerly awaiting.
I try to physically turn Grandma back around, and I hiss at her, “I’m not finished carving, and that is just for us.” She starts to turn back to Beulah again, and I turn Grandma back toward our tiny table again, and again hiss, “Grandma, I’m not finished carving, and that is just for us.” She says “Oh!” and then waits patiently. As I’m putting the last piece of chicken on the plate that I’m going to, she reaches for the plate again and is already positioning herself to turn in her seat.
I lunge and clutch the plate. “Grandma! I told you–”
She interjects, “–that you weren’t finished cutting yet.”
I interject, “Yes, after I said that several times, you heard that. How many times did I have to say that it is just for us before you heard me?”
Grandma settles into her chair, “Oh.” She softens, and she seems very OK that I have prioritized taking care of us. I explain that I cannot feed this room full of people, and in this instance, it was not my calling to. Each of us knew about this meeting, and it’s length. And every person knows his and her own needs to be taken care of. Most importantly, every person here has the ability to provide for themselves, or everyone could have brought a different dish that we all share. Simply because I am the only one to bring dinner does not mean that I must also provide everyone else’s.
The nice, older gentleman – Todd – leading our group in the meeting stands to say he’s going to order pizza, as it’s intermission. Suddenly a swarm of people, about 20, come and encircle Grandma’s and my tiny table, standing and awaiting being able to reach for our dinner. Then I realize Todd is gone. Grandma says he went to order the pizzas, on a phone by the door.
I get up and run to Todd, hoping he’s taken a hand-count of how many people want pizza and how much. I tell him that Grandma and I would each like one slice. He asks what kind we each want. I feel puzzled that we have options – what if every person gave an order with the exact toppings they wanted? I tell him we are agreeable. He asks how we want our crusts. What?! Ummm, we are agreeable. Low maintenance. We’ll eat whatever. He happily and chirpily bounces back to ordering on the phone.
I go back to our table, and all the food is gone except for one giant chicken breast, one tiny Chinese dumpling (which I had forgotten that I had cooked and brought), and two black and whites. Other than the fact I don’t like chicken breast, the plate seemed like a full dinner for one. Grandma says she had eaten her dinner and was full, and that what is on the plate is all that is left. She leaves to socialize with Beulah.
I am angry that I left for only a few moments to tell Todd that we’d buy a couple slices of pizza, and all these entitled people picked apart the dinner. In my anger, though, I still feel blessed that any food is left for Grandma and me.
Grandma is giving me a notion that I need to pray over my food, so I lower my head, and do not take my eyes off of the plate. I start to count in my head. One – two – three – four – five – six – wait. I’m not praying. I’m counting. So I try to close my eyes, and I begin to pray. Dear Lord, please, bless this food. Please bless my body, use this food to restore my health… I squint my eyes open, and see the 10 or so people left, entitled, hovering over me and this plate of food, and that they are eager to grab at it. I am absolutely livid. I wrap my prayer up instantly, realizing I’m going to lose my dinner if I don’t keep a hawk eye on it. I am so mad that I cannot take enough time to even pray without strangers snatching away my food.
I begin to eat, and a guy my age whom I know (but in real life, I don’t, he’s an actor on Modern Family who plays a happy-go-lucky, quirky, in-love nanny) dives into Grandma’s seat next to me and reaches for my plate.
I smack his hand and say, “That is mine!” He withdraws his hand and looks a little shamed, and I feel bad that I’m making him feel bad. I put my arms around him and squeeze, and say, “Hey, let me explain my reaction. Do you want to hear some psychobabble?”