I arrive home from JFK in the rosy hours, to find a brand new 5-in-one egg slicer and dicer on my dining room table.
This is how my father deals with grief.
Three days ago, I was in the Santa Cruz redwoods tracing a mountain road in the back of a pick up truck watching clouds unravel into spider webs.
Two days from now, there will be forest fires so thick, they will have to evacuate that part of Santa Cruz. The flames will paint the nightly news a different shade of orange and when it happens, I will already be in New York city watching something else on TV.
Commercials, probably. Which is all that seems to play on hospital television sets. The beeping from nurses stations mixing with sales jingles to create the theme song of the ailing.
My grandmother’s body is a sinking ship on white sheets. I hold her hand and try to remember open highway.
“It just goes to show that in dry conditions like these, it doesn’t take much to start a fire,” a Cal fire spokesman will tell CNN on Saturday. “Fire officials have been working tirelessly, but controlling something this big is impossible.”
My mother will point at the celluloid flames, remind me how close I was, how lucky I am, how narrowly I missed this disaster. My father will point out a commercial for the Brown and Crisp. Repeat line by line how it bakes, broils, steams fries and barbecues. He will write down the phone number so he can remember to order it later.
Three days ago, I was barefoot, balancing on train tracks. The full moon an unexpected visitor. The clean air as sharp as these city lungs could stand.
Two days from now, I will find my father making egg salad in the kitchen. Exhausted after another all night shift at the hospital. I will ask him if he needs help and understand when he says no. I will leave him to slice and dice the things he can.
My grandmother holds my hands and strokes my knuckles like they are a wild animal she is trying to tame. She tells me I am gorgeous. Watches a commercial. Forgets my name. Tells me I am gorgeous again.
My father watches from the bedside table. His mother and daughter strung together with tightrope hands. Fingers that look like his own and somewhere, in California, a place I once stood is burning.