Limited Agency


It was that special day in December, and the two of us sat alone, temporarily, as the rest of the family dinner party was in the kitchen, and it didn’t seem fair to leave my brother-in-law’s grandfather by himself at the corner of the table, and to be quiet for a minute felt like a nice thing to do and I’m not certain if we’d ever shared a private conversation between just the two of us.

He was a little drunk, and always a little ornery, which went along with being ninety-something and still so god damn clear-headed.  He said something about aging and implied, or perhaps I’d already known, that he was ready for this to be his last Christmas. Everyone else from his generation had gone ahead. We both commented on how unexpectedly intertwined our lives had become, and how outright strange it was. That we were family now. “How could you have ever predicted the two of us would be sharing this meal together?”

“We didn’t have any say or choice in the matter, at all.”

And yet, there we were. He’d have the pies, all of them, and I’d glance at their gluten and dairy and spoon at the filling of one and nurse the cold I had been flirting with all week.

Looking out from both of our place settings, it was now very clear there would be increasingly limited agency toward who will surround you in the later years. That felt like something to pay attention to — a currency with a potentially negative exchange rate if you didn’t invest wisely.

My sister texted us last night, “Sounds like tomorrow is immediate family only,” with a frowning face for punctuation at the end. I’d called him Grandpa too, but no, it was only a temporary immediacy we had shared. And it had been as immediately honest as it ever would be, right at the end of that last shared meal.

There are so few perfect plots except our own lives and even those sometimes seem so circumstantial and without authorship, and then other times profoundly suspect of purpose.



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