OK, I know this has nothing to do with the military, but circumstances being what they are, I felt obliged to honor my grandmother. I hope you will allow me this.
She’d lift the fork to her mouth and close her eyes as she did her lips, setting the fork on the table she would then pause, savoring the creamy, lime filling; she often told me how the taste reminded her of the warmer sun of Florida.
We used to play Cribbage, but it had gotten difficult for her to hold playing cards; her fingers knotted by time and years of hard work. So as of late we just sat and ate Key Lime pie and debated the state of the world.
Ilo and me had a special relationship, it was not based on or tied to any outside influences, it was just her and me and that was all, it was simple and it was uncomplicated. Some days I would talk a little too much and she’d never interrupt. Sometimes she would talk and I would listen, I’d watch her eyes roam around the room as she fumbled with her blanket and flatten it upon her lap. Sometimes I would roll her outside and we would just sit in the sun and watch the leaves skid by, carried on a late summer breeze. Nothing need be said between us, her thin gray hair would fall over her eyes and I would brush it back for her, she’d swat at me and tell me she liked the wind and to quit fussing with her hair.
We didn’t always see eye to eye on everything, but she always seemed to consider an alternate view, and she never persecuted me for mine. There was an acceptance between us, we could be completely honest with each other and neither of us felt bad, judged nor uncomfortable. I loved that about our time together; there was no editing, it was honest and real.
One day I visited her on my motorcycle and brought Key Lime pie and tea from the café where I always bought it. This time though, under the excited anticipation gleaming in her tired eyes, I opened the carton and to my dismay and embarrassment, the lime green filling had vibrated and mixed together with the frothy, white, whipped topping; It was a huge globby mess. As I began to apologize and stated I’d take the car next time so it wouldn’t happen again, she swiftly stuck her fork right in the middle of the pile. She looked at me and said “Tracy, it’ll taste just as beautiful as it always does…”, then as she placed a helping in her mouth and closed her eyes, she continued “…besides, I have already punched my ticket and given it to the conductor, so don’t bother with pie next time”.
We ate in silence until all of the crust was gone, she sipped her tea and I gazed at her. She was intensely calm, quiet, beautiful. We sat for a long time that day, side by side staring out the window through her row of flowers sitting along the window sill.
I went to Birchwood Café this morning, when I placed my order for a single piece of Key Lime pie at the counter, the girl that knew me paused, she struggled to maintain her smile as her eyes began to well, as did mine. As I sat among the flowers on the patio, in the sun and the wind, I lifted a forkful of pie to my mouth and closed my eyes. I sat there listening to the leaves rustle, feeling the sun caress my face, imagining Ilo sitting across from me…I knew then, that Key Lime pie would never taste as fine again.
I will miss Ilo, I loved everything about her, I loved her honesty, I loved her smile, I loved her level of integrity, and I shared her love of Key Lime pie.