One seasonably warm Saturday night winter, a grandson took his grandmother, Florence, to dinner in Carroll Gardens. He held his phone, not her hand, as they crossed Court Street to the Marco Polo Ristorante.
Florence had not been there since her downstairs neighbor Rosie’s daughter’s engagement party in early May and had been wanting to go back with her own family. But the late morning phone calls to her children and grandchildren, when she would suggest dinner that night or the next, were rarely received with much enthusiasm or believable regret. Always the tired apology and the empty “wish I coulds.” Busy lives; at times, too busy to ever include Florence in their own plans, like live music at the Brooklyn Museum or a walk to the farmer’s market to touch tomatoes. Even a quick errand to pick up toilet paper, she would settle for with any of them. Rosie’s daughter’s engagement party had been just for her though, and she liked that. She’d felt proud of the few hours spent at the Marco Polo Ristorante that sunny, spring day, in all of its gaudiness and mahogany, chit chatting over sesame bread sticks, unconsciously clearing the crumbs off the white linen into the soft middle of her hand. She’d been served seafood risotto, perfectly cooked and enough for two. With leftovers, though, came reminders of Joey, her late husband. It was not that she didn’t like being reminded but she had never known a leftover anything when he was alive. Whatever she couldn’t finish, he would lick clean. Florence was gracious for the memory, if only for an eye blink. And the bus boy, no more than seventeen, had taken a seat at the piano, wiping his olive oil fingers up his pant legs, and surprising all the pink-cheeked ladies with his Sinatra repertoire. Rosie’s daughter sashayed from one table to the next, thanking everyone for coming and Was everyone enjoying themselves? Oh yes, yes, Florence was enjoying herself. It was so nice to be out of the house, where usually she just sat by the window, on her elbows, drinking milk with a little bit of coffee, counting the joggers, waiting for the next zoom! of the bus.