I’m not sure it’s statistically possible, but it would seem that 90% of the time I’m at the end of the roll of toilet paper. Perhaps, like all bounty, it is hard to see until it begins to end.
I don’t know how my grandma did it. With eleven people in the house, just to maintain the necessary products must have been a constant challenge. And yet, I never saw it. And, like I’ve said before, I tried to memorize their house. I paid attention. I counted the number of steps. The paintings that hung in each bedroom. What was hidden in the closets. The sewing room. My grandma’s dresser. The damp coats hanging. The shoes leading down the basement stairs. Which cupboard held the candy. The six pack of cereal. I took it all in, so I thought. But it was only today, these many years later, it occurred to me that I don’t remember where she kept the toilet paper. And I don’t remember ever running out. Even on holidays when that house of 11 turned to 50 or more. We always had what we needed.
It may sound silly. I mention it only because what a thing! — to count on someone like this. And believe me, I did the math. With each grandchild that appeared. Each great grandchild. I wondered would it be possible for her to still love us all, and by that I mean me. Would it be possible for her to still see me among all these arms reaching up to be held. All these toes trampling and racing. Sticky fingers. And one cry louder than the next. Would it be statistically possible to have that much love?
She was almost 90 when we were sitting at her table. Drinking egg coffee made on the stove. Grounds clinging to the bottom of stained cups. My mom and I had just been at one of my gallery shows. We told her about what I had painted. What I had sold. Sitting in this tiny apartment which now contained a mere fraction of what her house had held. (I suppose all lives get reduced down to the necessary.) She made the silent oooooh with her mouth, a sound only hearts can hear. She told me to go to the nightstand beside her bed. It was only a couple feet from the kitchen table. It was there that I saw it. A small easeled piece of tree bark, with dried flowers glued in the cracks, with the words “Love, Jodi, 5th grade,” written in Sharpie on the back. It wasn’t possible, and yet, my heart’s sigh told me that it was — she saw me, she knew me, she loved me. Still.
It would have been so easy to get lost in the cracks of it all. But there I was. Flowered.
I had to hold both of her hands to lift her from her chair. Somewhere along the line we had reversed roles, she now cuddled shoulder high in the warmth of my embrace. If I didn’t know it before, I knew it then, love never runs out.