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Loss and the family table

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“Kathy, I just wanted you to know that I found a nice family who took the dining room table.”

My mother’s voice cut through my morning fog of getting everyone out of the house and off to school, much more than the few sips of coffee I had managed to take right before I answered the phone.

“Oh, okay. That’s good.”

And then it happened. Tears started to stream down my face and I couldn’t stop them.

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Ever since my dad died three months ago I really haven’t been able to cry much. A little bit of tears from time to time but no real crying.

But now I couldn’t stop.

My mother heard me getting upset.

“Kathy, you know I couldn’t take it with me. My new place is so much smaller. And the people buying the house don’t need it. I was glad I could gift it to a nice young family.”

“ I know mom. I’m glad you did that. It was very nice of you. I’m sorry I have to go, I’ll call you later.”

Now I was really crying and I felt ridiculous. It’s just a table.

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Except it’s not.

It was the table and chairs my father refinished at least two times that I can remember. His brushes strewn all over the dining room, frustrating my mother to no end.

It was the table that would welcome anyone and everyone my sisters and I would bring home. Food always miraculously appearing, an extra plate set down with a smile.

It was the table Joe and I sat at when we told my parents we were getting married twenty seven years ago.

The table where my sister’s and I went over seating charts for weddings, or discussed baby and bridal shower plans for each other. My father sitting at his usual place at the head of the table, smiling. Knowing it was probably better to just listen whenever his wife and three daughters were busy planning.

It was the table that held blueprints for cradles my dad made for our babies to sleep in, or a cabinet to hold my daughter’s American Girl dolls or the benches he made for my nephew’s bedrooms.

The table I would plop down their first grandchild on while he was in his infant car seat. We would just all sit around and stare and smile at this beautiful boy that finally came to Joe and I after four miscarriages. A miracle not just for us, but for my whole family.

It was the table my father would color Easter eggs on, long after we had all moved out on our own and before any grandchildren had come along.

It was the table that my mom would serve Christmas cookies to her grandchildren on, using good china, after a day of baking with them. My father quickly getting out the broom to sweep up the crumbs that would inevitably fall to the floor.

It was the table that hosted countless holidays, celebrations and meals with family and friends crammed all around it. Many who are no longer with us.

It was the table that I would sit at when my kids were in school and I would pop in on my dad for a visit. My mother usually busy with her Real Estate business or numerous community service projects.

My dad would offer me tea that he brewed himself with ginger he grew in his garden or a muffin he concocted with no sugar. He would study my face to see if I really liked his latest creations or was just being nice.

It was the table that was the center of my parent’s house.

The one my mom would set so beautifully with all the serving pieces she collected throughout the years.

The table that started out with just my parents, my two sisters and me, but grew to include our husbands and seven grandchildren, ranging in age from 20 to 8 years old.

My father would more than approve of my mom giving it to a new family. Especially one with four kids under five. I can almost hear him say, “Kathy, life goes on.” And it’s somewhat comforting to know that.

I’m so grateful for the years I had around that table. And for the home and memories my parents made for not only my sisters and me, but for everyone who was lucky enough to sit around it.

But for today, I’m missing my dad and the chance to have one more cup of his ginger tea at the table.

This piece is an extended version of a post that ran on Kathy’s Facebook page, My Dishwasher’s Possessed. You can find more essays on family over at her site.

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