It would have been nice to sit at the table and have a cup of coffee – I really am attached to my caffeine – but two things stopped me. First off I needed to check the truck before it got dark. I didn’t like feeling stupid and not having bothered to look in the truck to make sure it was completely empty was not excusable in my book. I hadn’t been thinking, just assuming. I promised myself no more mistakes like that.
The second thing that stopped me was remembering that one of the things that Mom had nixed from the new family diet was caffeine. When I found out I coulda just died. When I came home on my breaks from college I was constantly scrounging coffee or cola from somewhere. I had to hide the habit from Mom and always felt like a junkie trying to hide from my family that I was hooked and looking for my next fix. I’m sure that means that any so-called coffee I find in the house will likely be decaffeinated or that upscale stuff that has more flavoring ingredient than coffee bean in each serving. I hid a small stash of espresso beans hidden in an old cookie tin in my room upstairs last summer and it was still there; Mom never found it. I also bought coffee at that Dollar General along with the colas but even drinking it just a cup at a time it wouldn’t last forever.
It isn’t a problem for Tony. He mostly drinks those crappy herbal teas one of his early girlfriends turned him onto. He is so laid back about it he doesn’t even mind the ribbing he gets sometimes from other guys because he drinks tea instead of coffee. I suppose those teas aren’t really bad but if I’m gonna drink swill I’d at least like some kick to go with it. I don’t know what I’m going to do when the coffee runs out. Caffeine is my cure-all. When I’m really jonesing for a treat I’ll chew on one or two chocolate covered espresso beans and it fixes me right up. I’ve got a stash of those goodies too, but I’m saving them for emergencies like a serious case of PMS.
Thinking about caffeine being my drug of choice made me think about something Lucia had mentioned hearing on the radio. People had already started to run out of their medications within days of what I have begin to think of as the national shut down. I hadn’t worried about it at the time because I knew that my parents kept a six months of Dad’s medicine at any given time and even had a three month supply here at the cabin. But now, thinking more seriously and long term, I knew that any type of illness or injury had the potential to be a disaster for us.
My parents always kept an extensive medical kit in all of their vehicles and I was relieved to find one tucked in the rear of the cab. My brothers were both Eagle scouts and as flibberty gibbet as they could be, they definitely knew their stuff when it came to first aid. They’d also been CPR certified and I kinda got pulled along for the ride when they were younger since there was no way I was going to let my little brothers get something over me. I definitely didn’t like the idea that I might have to put into practice what I’d learned but I was still glad I had the training in case we needed it. I would have preferred to have Lucia around; she knows way more than I do about first aid and medical needs, but that thought pattern is something I ran from rather than suffer through another burst of grief.
Dropping the tail gate I could have pounded on my own head if I wasn’t already as bruised as an overripe a banana. Since everything was pushed back against the cab I had to take off the sections of the bed cover so I could reach. First thing I found were boxes of my mother’s home canned goodies. I should have known, considering the circumstances, she would refuse to leave home without bringing as many as she could. I also found a box filled with Splenda, powdered coffee creamer and instant coffee … decaf of course. There were a couple of boxes of salt and some pickling spices, and other seasonings in another box. Mom came ready for bear that’s for sure; I guess she didn’t think she would be getting back home for a while. How prophetic … and that’s all it took to set me off again but not nearly as violently as before. Maybe I’m getting used to the idea of them being gone; geez, what an awful thought.
Hauling everything into the house from the truck was work. I could have used Bennie’s muscles but in another sense it was good to do it myself. It was stuff my mother thought important enough to pack and as I moved everything item by item I did my best to figure out why. Most of it was easy; food to feed the family, ingredients to preserve more food, gardening stuff from the community garden to have one of our own up here.
Some of the items I had to think about. There was a little metal ball with holes in it on the end of a chain that I finally figured out was a tea ball that you used for loose tea leaves. There was a chestnut roaster that I think she used maybe once when she was on an old-fashioned Christmas kick. A box labeled Italian cookware that I’ll have to ask Tony about since it just looks like funny shaped pots and pans to me. There was also a cast iron bacon press. When I saw it I thought, “Be serious.” After Dad’s first attack Mom wouldn’t let bacon anywhere near our front stoop so I have no idea why she brought the thing with her … maybe for pressed sandwiches. I finally just gave up. My mother and I were very close but we couldn’t read each other’s minds … thank goodness or I would have had some serious ‘splainin’ to do.
Feeling grateful, I carefully arranged the food in the pantry. I was also grateful that my mother’s handwriting was clear and legible on each jar recording when each had been sealed. With this information I was able to continue the FIFO (first in first out) system I’d grown up learning from Mom; oldest in the front to be used first. The commercially canned and boxed foods – some of which had to be from the Moretti household or from Tony - weren’t as easy. Some were clearly dated with a use by date, some were in code, and some didn’t have a date on them any place I could find. I did the best I could to keep things neatly grouped together so it would make some sense to me long term.
To be honest I was happy to work so as to avoid being frustrated. I kept waiting for Tony to wake up so we could get around to talking about those “complicated things” but every time I checked on him he was snoring just a little louder. Finally I started laughing at myself, able to find humor in the irony of it. I stopped looking for work to keep me up, closed and locked down the house, and then headed up stairs to change.
I got nervous all over again when it came time for me to climb into my bed. I’d never shared a bed with anyone; it was a very strange feeling. And for it to be Tony of all people just didn’t do a thing for my composure. But as he lay there looking completely innocent when I knew for a fact he was oh so not, I finally chuckled and admitted that “complicated things” couldn’t be rushed. And we were definitely going to have to talk about his snoring.