Sydney F.

Egg and Cheese

We pull into the parking lot. The short car ride had consisted of some choppy small talk, but mostly wickedly funny, usually offensive, comments made by the driver, my grandpa. I get out of the car and worry that we won’t have anything to talk about at breakfast because we have to leave politically incorrect comments in the car. We walk to the entrance of Finagle-a-Bagel, and my grandpa, whom we call Pop-Pop, cracks some joke about the soup of the day. We get to the counter, and I order a breakfast sandwich and freshly squeezed orange juice. I’m too focused on getting my food to realize what Pop-Pop orders aside from his usual coffee. We get our food and I look over to a little counter with condiments and milk and napkins and things that one might need while eating a bagel and drinking coffee. I am immediately hit in the head with a memory from the last time I was here. I was with my mom’s sister, Sally, her husband, Joe, and their two sons, Jeremy and Ethan. Joe had been using the milk machine to, surprisingly, put milk in his coffee, and the button to turn it off had broken and milk started shooting everywhere. Instead of helping him, the rest of us stood there laughing at his attempt to fix it. I giggle to myself as I come back to the present and sit at a table for four despite our party of two.

I take a bite of my breakfast sandwich. It’s not very warm. Pop-Pop starts talking to me about his plans to go to Alaska in a few months. At first I’m not absorbing what he’s saying; the cheese on my bagel isn’t quite melted. He tells me my dad needs more vacation and that he works too hard, and I start paying more attention, trying to ignore my egg and cheese. I nod in complete agreement. Pop-Pop then continues to tell me that he can see that my dad, his son, doesn’t love his profession as much as he should. I continue to nod every so often. He, Pop-Pop, tells me this because he was drafted into the army when he was eighteen and was almost forced into a profession, so he also did not love his profession as much as he should. Then, he tells me his philosophy: in order to be happy and successful in life you need to have two things, a profession you love and a spouse you love who will support you no matter what. I now feel like I have been given a clue to solving the billion-plus piece puzzle of my grandpa.

My grandmother has passed away recently and I can see that Pop-Pop is still, and probably always will be, mourning. She had suffered from depression since she was in her late teens and it had been up and down, but had gotten more and more awful in her last twenty or so years of life. I know that she followed his philosophy because she did what she loved (she was a preschool teacher) and chose a spouse who supported her throughout her life, no matter what. I put up a road block to some unwanted thoughts by thinking about my egg and cheese bagel sandwich. I regain focus on our conversation (and by conversation I mean Pop-Pop talking and me nodding and “mmmhmm-ing”) and the topic drifts here and there. I’m so into the conversation that I leave Finagle a Bagel completely and enter the world of Pop-Pop’s mind and thought.

We talk about the family and family history for a while. I like this because I, as well as many of my other family members, am afraid of losing our rich, sentimental, and, most importantly, amusing past. I take a sip of my way-too-pulpy orange juice as he tells me a story about his mother and her seven siblings, the Cohen (pronounced “Cone” in his New Jersey accent) family. It’s hard for him because he is reminded that he is the only offspring of eight and his parents and aunts and uncles have all passed away. He tells me that he can’t remember getting old, and he can only remember fifty years ago, a few random and seemingly pointless memories, and today. One of these few memories is how when my sister was little, she wanted to be either a baby-sitter or a doctor. The latter is ironic because she passes out every time she sees blood. He tells me it’s useless that he remembers such remote information, but I try to convince him that it’s not useless at all. My effort is what’s really useless.

As we continue conversing about this peculiar rule-less game we call life, I notice we’ve finished our bagels. When there’s a break in conversation, I look at my watch and tell him I have to get home because I have a hair appointment. He agrees and his smile implies his satisfaction, and even relief, with our conversation. The journey home was mostly silent. But there was no need for conversation because we were both miles deep in thought.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.