This morning as I poured my ritual cup of coffee, I noticed that my white coffee cup was starting to get the hairline fractures in its finish that is so common with this type of cup. Its the kind of fracture that eventually causes the entire thing to look like a cracked egg shell.
As I looked at the cracks I was immediately taken back thirty -five years to a time when I lived with my grandparents on their small farm in southeastern Missouri. A time when life, for me, was so uncomplicated and so happy. My biggest concerns were wondering if my grandmother would ever let me wear shorts like the other kids, and fending off my aggrivating cousin on the school bus.
I was eight years old. My parents had just gone through a nasty divorce. My mother, forced into poverty, was unable to take care of her three small children and so my grandparents offered to keep us, until she could get on her feet. It was a time in my life when I should have felt angry, hurt, bitter, confused and anxious. It was a time when I should have been suffering some sort of seperation anxiety. Instead, all I can remember is feeling loved and wanted and cared for… and for the first time in my young life – safe.
Every morning, we woke and had breakfast with my grandfather and grandmother before I went off to school. My brothers were then four and two and didn’t attend school, but my grandparents had old way standards, and no one over slept in the house. It was a farmer’s life, and if you were old enough to walk, then you were old enough to do a small chore. It was wonderful, and when I think back on it now, I miss it so much – that work ethic that was instilled in me at such a young age – the value of time. My own children would have a near meltdown if they were waken before 10 AM in the summer.
My grandfather was a carpenter, and he and my uncle worked for the local school district during season, making repairs.
I remember this particular morning, having my own “coffee” with my grandfather (a weakened down version of instant coffee with a LOT of milk) and talking to him about what we would be doing that afternoon. Grandpa made me feel important. He asked my oppinion about things, and he listened to me when I gave my responses.
He went on his way to work, and I went on my way to school.
Later that morning, I saw him and my uncle, up on a ladder, fixing a broken window pane as my classmates and I went single file back to our classroom after being out on the playground.
At about 1:30 that afternoon, my aunt came to check us out of school because my grandfather had had a heart attack and passed away. I was in shock and denial. I was hurting so badly.
I remember that when we walked back into my grandmothers house, my grandpa’s coffee cup was still sitting on the kitchen table, next to my own. It was unusual because my grandmother was NOT one to leave a dirty dish sitting, and this day, I think on some level she must have known, it would be the last time he’d have coffee there. His cup was cracked and eggshelled, just like mine is today.
Funny the memories we can conjure up, from something so simple as a coffee cup.