The current soap opera on Italian TV – Un medico in famiglia – opened recently with a picture of our sometimes comical patriarch holding a sign: Nonno Libero. Of course, my Italian is for crap so I was left with a problem of interpretation. Did that mean “Free Grandpa!” like, “Attica! Attica!” or, “Grandpa, free to a good home”? In this dark and economically uncertain time, when we’re inexplicably using parent as a verb, we may soon face packs of oldsters on streetcorners bearing signs: Will Grandparent For Food. It’s funny. But it’s not.
A few weeks ago, Daria, shouting at the tops of her lungs so Grandpa could hear her, asked about his new arrangement with Meals On Wheels. This was news to me.
Daria: HOW ARE YOU GETTING ALONG WITH THE MEALS ON WHEELS?
Grandpa: Fine, fine.
Daria: WHAT DO THEY FEED YOU?
Grandpa: A hot meal, three times a week. Those aren’t my favorite nights.
I stiffened. I’ve never heard Grandpa say a bad word about anything, let alone people who take care of him so I was confused. This morning, Daria had answers.
Tata: Promise me no one’s bringing Grandpa baloney sandwiches on white bread.
Daria: No, it’s nothing like that!
Tata: No baloney? No matter how it’s spelled?
Daria: They bring him a hot meal three nights a week. It’s good food. It’s just not his favorite.
Daria: He says the meatloaf is good, but it’s not his friend Hoagy’s meatloaf.
Tata: You’re saying they don’t specialize in Thai, Italian and Moroccan dishes?
Daria: Yeah. It’s different when we’re there but we can’t always be there.
Tata: This is a veritable bouquet of good news/bad news pairings. It’s good news that someone feeds Grandpa but bad news that he’s not wild about the food. It’s good news that he goes out to the Vets every day but bad news that he goes home alone. It’s good news that he takes care of himself but bad news that we can’t anyway from hundreds of miles away. Christ, I’m depressing myself with this happy news.
Daria: That’s your special charm.
I’m grateful. Somehow gratitude is not enough.