“KEN, DON’T FORGET THE TOMATOES,” Nan crowed from the kitchen. Her wet head, still partially loaded with large pink curlers, hung over the kitchen sink while she rinsed out a self-perm. “FEEL THEM TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE RIPE. KEN.”
Down the rickety steps, Pa fled for his chariot — the Chevy Luv. Nan’s love call pressed his biological accelerator. We’re a family of loud, fast talkers, competing for airspace, domination, and attention. Nan and Pa were the grandparents who helped raise my twin sister and me. In their house, yelling meant I love you.
After fifty years together, everything could keep them apart. They particularly benefited from space between them — the walls and rooms of the property. Separate but equally loud, our grandparents were physically apart, but never peaceful. Whenever conversing, they moved mountains instead of closing the distance between their bodies. Scant insulation, a few studs, and bits of drywall would never get in the way of their communication.
Headed to the grocery store, Pa would slip into the third bedroom, arm extended for the garage door. With keys in his hand and forgotten list still on the notepad in the kitchen, his beloved beckoned to him with sweet nothings.
“AND DON’T GET THE ONES IN THE CAN, EVEN IF THEY ARE OUT OF FRESH ONES. KEN, ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? TOMATOES!”
Pa normally shouted back.
His silence meant mission critical, she’d have to do the impossible and bring herself moderately closer to his location. Nowhere near casual speaking distance. She pleaded from the hallway while dripping water along her neck and shoulders down to the brown shag wall-to-wall carpet.
Lucky me to be the only other person home, bearing witness.
“DAWN, DID HE PULL OUT OF THE GARAGE YET? GO GET HIM. KEN! TOMATOES. ON THE VINE. ON THE VINE!”
From the second bedroom’s doorway, I could see the puddle of grease in the garage instead of a little white truck. The clank of the padlock as he fiddled to secure the manual garage door. I lied while yelling back at her to avoid any more conflict, saying, “HE’S ALREADY GONE.”