January 11, 2021

It’s funny that they’re called English muffins because the only place we ever ate them was in Florida and Bermuda when we visited our grandparents. My grandmother ate a lightly buttered English muffin for breakfast most days. And on days when she drove my grandfather into work (he was blind as a bat) she’d stay in town for a croissant. She was a creature of habit, my grandmother –– white shirts, Van Cleef Arpels perfume, Pinot Grigio with a glass of ice on the side –– and incredibly disciplined. Punctuality was so important. We never brought our bare feet to the dinner table or licked a finger to pick up breadcrumbs off a plate. Denim was for daytime. Decorum and discretion were cornerstones. She and my grandfather had a 17-year age gap. The sun rose and set with one another. I wonder how much of her discipline was a way of coping with his deteriorating health, caring for a man for as many years as she did, and knowing that she would spend a decent chunk of life without him. As it happens, it was more of a soupçon than a chunk. She was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years after he died. In the years in between, my grandmother para-glided off an Alpine cliff, drove her convertible along sandy beaches, took skating lessons, sang 60s ballads at karaoke, air ballooned around Dijon, wore sweat pants, ate a lot of cheese (my grandfather had an intolerance for any kind) and threw herself a big party. “Athinoula, I was in the Meatpacking district today, and I wore jeans,” she’d call to tell me. “Did you get a door for your bathroom yet? I won’t visit you until you do.” Her emails were the same. “Just arrived back an hour ago from new York with Jane and Pary and another Jane Saw Spamelot and DonQuito performed by the Bolshoi which doesnt get better than that. Yiayia.” You’d think she knew all along that her time was up.


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