Thou preparest a table before me... My cup runneth
I thought I'd start with this psnippet from a Psalm if only
because a lot of my memories of Ralph Schefter Sr. ("Grandpa
Schefter" to me) center around the massive holiday meals my
mother seems to effortlessly assemble. Easter, Thanksgiving, and
Christmas -- just like the Three Appearances of Jesus as
described in the Gospels, though sometimes he'd join us for
birthdays as well. And can we say with any certainty that Jesus didn't
appear at the odd children's party? Well there you are.
In the afternoon, he and I would play crokinole for hours
until my head rang in a haze like bus exhaust. Flick. Flick.
"How'd that get in there?" as he made a 20.
And maybe he'd pop a chocolate in his mouth between shots. But
just one because the doctor wasn't keen on him eating sweets, or
anything spicy. "He said one or two is OK. But just don't
sit there eating one after the other, " and then "Why'd
you do that?" as one of his pieces left the board.
Dinner was in the dining room, so you knew it was a special
occasion. Mom and Scott sat at the either end of the table.
Grandpa always sat beside my sister Karina, and across from them
would be me Olivia, and my other sister. I'd say we laid an extra
setting for him, but as I don't live there either, I guess there
were really two extra settings. And since the dining
room isn't often used anyway, you could say that all the settings
were extras, and that we were all guests. But that'd be dumb.
Smashed potatoes, vegetables, fruit salad, a roast of
something. Pickles and cranberry sauce (two kinds: one from
scratch, and one from a tin which Grandpa preferred). Often,
there would be pie for dessert, made earlier that day by Mom
while talking about something else entirely, casually dropping
shortening into a bowl and later rolling it for a few moments
when you were distracted by something one of the kids said. In
fact, you could fool yourself into thinking that she wasn't even
making pie, and that there had always been a pie shell on the
counter, and that it had always been filled, and baked, and left
out to cool.
|Ann and Grandpa, decrypting enemy
After dinner is a fine time for a nap on the living room
couch, and while I did that, Grandpa would play cribbage in the
dining room once the table had been cleared. "You know 29 is
the perfect hand. I only got it twice. Once was in Winnipeg. We
were playing over lunch and I got it. 29. Someone -- I don't know
who -- but someone called the newspaper. There was a picture of
me in it the next day with the perfect hand." He played with
my mother's friend Ann (who was also at supper from time to time,
though I didn't mention her earlier, and despite her not being
mentioned in the Gospels). Memories of drifting in and out of
slumber while hearing Grandpa count cards in the other room in a
system of scoring that is similar in complexity only to
neurosurgery, code breaking, or possibly, bridge.
I'd usually drive him home since it was on my way out of town.
And every time we hit the off ramp from the QEW onto Brown's
Line, he'd look up at the elevated cloverleafs above us and say,
"The fellow who designed this must have had quite a head on
his shoulder." He said this every time. It got so that
whenever I felt the pull of the turn from the ramp, I'd be
waiting for it. For some reason I'd want to hear it too. There
was no special meaning to it -- it wasn't arch or funny. I just
needed to hear it, just like anything else you find yourself
needing to hear even though you already know it. He always said
it. Without fail.
Ralph Schefter died on November 21, 2000 after living for more
than 96 years.