Grilled Cheese

“Sit down and don’t move.”

This is the first time in my life I can order my mom around, and she has to listen!

She sits on the couch, back against the long floral armrest, head against an added pillow, legs straight in front of her on the rest of the couch, more pillows raising her feet.

“But,” she protests, “I know where the butter is, and the pan to grill the bread, and don’t use the new tomatoes, use the ones in the vegetable bin, and I’m not sure if the cheddar cheese is on the left side of the refrigerator, or the bottom shelf, and…”

“Stop!” I command. “I can figure it out.”

I’m not a kid any more. In fact, I’ve raised children, now adults, who thrived on my cooking, but my mom still thinks I can’t make a grilled cheese sandwich without her help.

I take a deep breath and look at her sternly but lovingly. “You need to keep your feet up right now. You’ve just had surgery. I have taken a five-hour train trip to stay with you and wait on you. So sit down and enjoy it!” I leave the room with a smirk on my face.

Of course, five minutes later I’m cursing under my breath. Where the hell does she store her pans? Her apartment is small, her kitchen as tiny as an elf’s, and it has already taken me 4 minutes, 38 seconds to find a knife to cut the cheese and a spatula.

No pan = no grilled cheese sandwiches, so I open more cabinets and grit my teeth.

“The bottom of the stove,” mom shouts from the living room.

I open the drawer below the oven, seemingly hidden until now, and sweetly shout out, “got it!” Why she couldn’t have told me that in the first place?  I whistle happily as I slice and melt the butter in the pan.

“Don’t use oil or that spray stuff, butter works best!” she suggests unnecessarily.

I walk briskly back into the living room. Tennis is on the T.V. “Thirty-love,” the commentator whispers excitedly. Yup, I think, it’s 30-0 right here, in this little apartment, and I’m the one not getting my serves in.

“Mom, luv,” I begin.

She looks up at me innocently. I walk over and fluff up the pillows behind her, check her water class. It could use more ice. “Yes?” she asks. “Do you need any help?”

“Not at all!” I answer. I pick up her glass and announce. “You need more water. Ten glasses a day – at least!” I bounce back to the kitchen and notice that the butter is turning brown. Whoops. As I add more ice to her glass, I throw some slices of bread in the pan. Race the ice water back to mom and her tray, then race back to the kitchen. Now the bread is turning brown, and I haven’t added the cheese yet.

“Damn,” I shout out.

Two seconds later, I hear the clip clip clip of her walker, and she is standing beside me, clucking and reaching out for the cheese, the butter, the tomato. In a span of three minutes, the smells of a toasty warm grilled cheese and tomato sandwich is wafting through the small three-room apartment.

“Yum!” she says, turning off the stove top. “Sit down and I’ll fix you a glass of diet coke. I’m starving, aren’t you?”

As she arranges a dish on her walker tray and sashays back toward the couch, I admit defeat, but also realize a cheery thought.

She’s healing quite well, much faster than the doctor’s prediction.

A Walk on the Beach

The sun is hot, hotter than it’s been all week. But I’ve lazed around; I’ve read fun sexy beach books; I’ve slathered on the lotion and sat like a beached whale; and I’ve swum with the jellyfish. Finally, I am ready. “Mom, let’s go for a long walk,” I suggest. My slim, petite mother looks at me hesitantly.

“What about lunch?” she asks.

I laugh. She’s 5’2” and 100 pounds soaking wet, yet she eats like an elephant. Can’t take a walk in the early morning unless she’s had a banana and two bowls of cereal. Can’t walk mid-morning unless she’s had a peanut butter sandwich. Can’t walk at 1 unless she’s had two sandwiches, three cookies, an apple, and a tall glass of milk.

“Mom, it’s 12:30. We’ll walk on the beach to 32nd Street and eat there.”

“That’s 9 blocks,” she whines. She’s more limber than a football player and has more energy than a ballerina, but she’s worried about how long it will take us to reach the snack bar.

“We’ll walk fast,” I answer, and we smile at each other as we feel the wet sand squoosh between our toes, hear the roar of the waves just feet away, and watch the children scream and race back and forth among the froth.

We are ocean people, my mom and I, and we love our time at the New Jersey beach. We talk little during our fast-paced walk. I think of the gritty sand; the gloriously long, non-rushed day ahead; the hot hot sun on our backs. She probably thinks about food and how soon we’ll be at the 32nd Street snack bar.

Finally, 30 minutes later, the lifeguard stand appears. All we have to do now is walk up the beach to the street and the hamburger stand. I glance at my mom, who’s staring at something with a frown on her face. The hot air is waving like a mirage in the desert.  The distance to the snack bar looks like a mile. I know in actuality that it’s less than a 3-minute walk, but I also notice the children and adults hopping up and down as they walk toward the street.

“Carry me?” Mom asks hopefully.

“In your dreams,” I laugh back. I begin to walk fast, then I run. The sand is hotter than Hades. It’s burning my feet. I feel like Lawrence of Arabia, only he wore white robes and thick sandals.

I turn to look for my mom. She’s disappeared. Oh My God. Did she get sucked into the burning sand? Where is she? I can’t stand and look. I am seriously getting second- degree burns. I run to the hamburger stand and stop on the small wooden board “walk” they have placed for people in dire straights, like me.

“Mom!” I shout over the roar of people and ocean waves. I see a tiny spot, a shadow, move. Then I see her more clearly. She is standing next to a lone trashcan in the middle of the hot sand.

“There’s shade here! I’m not moving,” she screams at me.

I sigh and run back over the sand to rescue my stranded mother. As I suspect, when she sees me coming toward her, she sucks in a deep breath and races toward me, tears of pain in her eyes. We run together toward the snack bar, and I worry
about her lungs and her heart. I’m almost 30 years younger, and I walk every day for sport. Her face is hot and sweaty and squints in discomfort.

Finally, we reach the boardwalk and hobble toward the snack bar.

“I think my feet are burned,” she says to me, breathing hard.

“I think mine are too,” I answer. We look at each other and start laughing. Two fools are we.  I walk gingerly toward the teenager behind the counter to ask for a bucket of cold water for our feet, but first, I have to stop our giggles.

Ah, how we love the beach.