Sacrifice through a child’s eye by Cathy Reineke
In a spurt of independence, my seventy-year-old grandmother bought a ticket and boarded a train to see her sister for two weeks. My stubborn German grandfather stood on the tracks, arms clasped behind his back. He squinted as the train left the station and disappeared out of site. He turned to my mother with disbelief in his voice and remarked, “She went. She really went.” My mother sighed and retorted, “And you should have gone with her.”
My grandmother agreed to go if my mother would fix my grandfather dinner. He never learned to cook. My mother promised he would not starve but left him to solve getting his own breakfast and lunch. He mostly likely walked to the local dive ordering his greasy brains and eggs as he sat with all his old railroad cronies.
Each night my mother and I drove to visit him, a plateful of hot food wrapped in tinfoil carefully balanced on my eight year old lap.
On the third evening of this dinner- delivery journey, my mom asked my grandfather how things were going. “What are you eating for breakfast?” she inquired.
“You know, I’ve been eating this new breakfast cereal I found. It is really different. But I have acquired quite a taste for it. I just pour some milk on it but it’s quite crunchy”
My mother’s curiosity rose. How could a seventy-year-old man think that Cheerios or Corn Flakes could be “really different?”
“I am not sure” he exclaimed as he rose from his rocker and headed toward the kitchen. He rummaged in the cupboard and soon returned. “It’s called Malto Meal”, he answered proudly holding up the box.
Immediately, I began to protest. “Mom, Grandpa’s eating . . . ”
My mother quickly turned to shush me with her mom-stare. She turned back to her dad and smiled. “ Well, I am glad you are taking care of yourself, Dad.” With that, she gave him a hug and directed me quickly out the door to the car.
As she started the car, I found my voice again. “Mom, why is grandpa eating that cereal raw?”, I proclaimed with indignation. I knew the cereal needed cooking as my father prepared it for us children each morning before school.
“He’s just making a few small sacrifices so grandma can enjoy a few weeks of freedom” my mother answered. “Cathy, your grandmother has never been on her own vacation before so her time away is very special. If we tell her about grandpa, she will never allow herself such a vacation in the future. Grandpa has always been so helpless. We just don’t want grandma to know how helpless.”
With that, my mother drove away from the curb silently laughing and shaking her head.
We did keep grandpa’s sacrifice a secret from grandma. She never again took an independent vacation but we often heard reminiscences from her wonderful sojourn.
I am also sure my grandmother cooked the rest of the Malto Meal for my grandfather’s breakfast in the days after her return. He happily consumed the cereal, totally oblivious to its metamorphosis.
photos by chatchavan & shinazy
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