The sound of the kettle whistling on the stove reminded Cassie of her Nana, may she rest in peace.
Peace was the first word that came to mind whenever Cassie thought of her grandmother. Calm, contented and serene. She seemed to always be in a state of grace, alone or with friends, relatives and the loved ones who came by to chat and say hello. It seemed like the kettle was always on, a cup of tea being heated for a welcomed visitor.
Cassie took her kettle off of her stove and poured the hot water into a cup with the tea bag inside. She placed the kettle back on the stove, beside the single serve coffee maker that had much more wear and tear.
The first sip was a little too hot. Cassie blew on it to cool it off. As she waited for that first sip, she thought of Nana’s house. One of those odd old homes the Irish built in Southern Ontario. The peculiar feature of having two front doors. One into the kitchen and one into the parlour. She was told that this was to accommodate for the Irish custom of bringing in the actual dead body into the house for the wake after a funeral. Apparently allowing the corpse into the kitchen was where they drew the line back then.
Cassie smiled as she thought of that house. It was small, but always filled with people, smiles and laughter, especially in that kitchen. She wondered how Nana was able to raise five kids in that small house. The downstairs dining room was converted to a primary bedroom. Two bedrooms upstairs had to fit the five kids. But it was filled with love. Her father loved his mother deeply. The only time he saw him cry was at her funeral. The only time she saw him drunk was that night too, passed out just a few feet away from her body. The casket was thankfully closed..
She took a sip and looked out into her condo. Although it was the same size as the first floor, her Nana’s house it was not. The galley kitchen felt like at times it could barely fit her, let alone a steady stream of visitors. A laptop and a stack of books and files dominated her two seat dining table. In her living room sat only a couch, a coffee table, and a tv with no cable. Not because she couldn’t afford it but because she didn’t have time. It was a running joke among her friends that at some point she would binge Breaking Bad. The view overlooked the city, 34 floors up although mostly enjoyed only by her or the occasional suitor.
If any family or friends wanted to visit, they likely would not feel overly welcomed by the security guard at the front masquerading as a concierge. That is only if they survived the labyrinth that was her underground parking garage.
It was not perfect, but it was hers. And she worked hard to make it hers. Especially with the economic situation of the times.
Cassie looked out the window, drinking her tea. A cold, dark, wet, late autumn day in the city. Her view was not of a garden over the yard like Nana’s with a swing on a tree and a white picket fence. Hers was a parking lot that serviced the fifty story office building opposite hers.
‘Hmmm, there are cars there. Who is working on a Sunday morning?’ she thought.
‘Actually, maybe I should. I could get caught up on a lot of work today.’ Cassie enjoyed not nursing a mild hangover on a Sunday morning, as was her usual custom.
‘No! You promised the doctor she would slow it down, be more mindful, stop and meditate. Drink more cups of tea and fewer shots of espresso or tequila.’
She sighed and put the tea down on the table.
‘Alright, let’s get this over with’
Cassie unrolled her near mint yoga-mat, having to move the small coffee table against the TV, and she faced the window. She opened her iPad and put on a video that played calm, relaxing music.
She calmed her mind and over the course of six seconds, took in a big breath in, filling her lungs with life giving air. She held it for an additional six seconds and slowly breathed out, visualising all of her stresses and cares being released with her breath.
‘One down, a million to go until inner peace’
She breathed in again for six seconds, held it and breathed it out.
‘Am I mindful yet? Is it working? I don’t feel like its working’
Cassie breathed in and out again
Her mind started to wander.
She thought of those cars in the parking lot outside, working on a Sunday morning. Maybe they were trying to get a jump on the work week. That was not a bad idea. She did have three reports due at the end of business on Tuesday and she had a meeting with the other associates to discuss work delegation. A couple of important client meetings this week had to be prepared for and one of them was going to be a complete nightmare. Amy’s birthday is coming up and she owes it to her bestie to plan a great night out. What was the name of that guy the other night? Was it Jeff? She liked him, he was good. Maybe she would send him a text.
‘Stop it Cassie. This is why you need to be mindful. All you do is work or engage in stress relief from work. This pattern of behaviour is not sustainable for your health and you did not need the doctor to tell you that. Try to think about something that is peaceful. Like Nana.’
Cassie breathed in and breathed out. She started to think of Nana.
What made Nana so at peace? She died at the age of 82, hopefully a number Cassie would reach as well. What did she do that worked for her?
She remembers the people, the laughter, but she also remembered laundry. Nana also did laundry in the kitchen since there was nowhere else to do it. As a child Cassie would wake up the smell of laundry when they would visit on weekends. The sight of cloths and clothes all over the tables and chairs. Her aunt was usually there to help Nana with it. The detergent would fill the air and the smell of fresh clean clothes. She would try to find herself a comforter that just came out of the dryer and wrap herself in it.
‘I’m almost done sweetie. You just stayed wrapped up there and I’ll get your breakfast ready for you.
Food. That was the other thing she remembered about Nana. She was always cooking too. But it was never the highest quality of food or ingredients that she cooked. She made cheap food that tasted really good. Deep fried potato chunks, low end deli meat sauteed in butter, her beef pot roast with carrots and potatoes. That was her favourite. Only grandma could get that horrible cut of beef and make it as flavourful and tender as she remembered. Professional restaurants, aunts and cookbooks Cassie had tried other versions but none of them were as good as Nana’s.
Cassie breathed in and out. In and out
‘So what, is that the secret to healthy living? Cooking and cleaning? That kind of flies in the face of everything my generation of women were taught about how to live. Also, who is going to pay for clothes and all that heart attack inducing food?
So she asked herself the next logical question: Who did it for Nana?
Cassie did not have as many memories of Papa as she did of Nana.
‘Your Papa wasn’t around a lot. He was either working or down by the inn down the street.’ Her dad had told her.
She tried to remember and piece together what she knew about him. She remembered he worked at the factory in town. He worked hard enough to get promoted to be one of the foremen. Did he get a job at the local butcher or working maintenance?
I think it was both at the same time.
She remembers as a little girl he would come home in the morning, as Nana was doing the laundry after a long night of work. They would kiss as sweetly as old couples do and he would go to one of the vacant bedrooms and pass out until he was needed for the dinner rush. She also remembered that after his ‘retirement’ he got a job as a night watchman, at least until they let him go once they found out about his age.
‘What am I supposed to do? Not work?’ he grumbled to Cassie as she sat on his lap.
She remembered her dad had said he was never really close or fond of Papa. He never came to any of his games and that he wasn’t there when he got the best Christmas gift ever, a brand new Rawlings glove. Cassie remembered Papa’s wake. Her father did not shed a tear and maybe had one drink. Papa’s work buddies were a different story.
Cassie breathed in, held her breath and breathed out.
Well, of course Nana could live a peaceful stress-free life. Papa was the one doing all the work! He was the one that made sure there was food to be cooked and clothes to wear. It clearly wasn’t the best, but he was doing the best with the situation he was in. Of course he couldn’t go to ball games. He was busy working so that he could afford to buy Dad that brand new glove.
‘And if I was working two jobs, the last thing I would want to do is come home to an unappreciative family yelling and screaming in a tiny house. I’d want to go hang out with the boys too! And why is that wrong? Why is it wrong to want to work and provide and make a living. Why can’t I focus on my career and blow off steam the way I want to …
Cassie breathered in, out, in and out and she opened her eyes.
‘I can’t do this. This is not me, I’m not Nana, those aren’t the genes I got’ she said out loud..
She went to the kitchen and put on a cup of coffee from her single serve machine. She turned off the music on her ipad and opened up her laptop. She retrieved some spreadsheets and sent off a few emails. On another tab she looked up some clubs for Amy’s party and fired off a text to … Jeff, she thinks.
At one point, she did stop to take a breath.
‘I am who I am and there’s nothing wrong with it. Besides, grandpa lived to 87’