Grandma’s Pantry


I unlocked the front door and thrust my shoulder into the wood to unstick it from the frame.  I entered with caution and unease because it wasn’t my house.  Although aware that no person would greet me, I remained wary of the memories that would no doubt sneak up on me and exploit my weaknesses.

With a deep breath, I smelled the stale air.  The scent of age hung in the warmth, which had been trapped inside by the locked windows and doors.  The house, uninhabited for years, possessed a certain kinship that lurked beneath the oldness.  I stopped for a moment, my eyes taking in the familiar flowered sofa and loveseat, the filled china hutch, and the painted porcelain birds sitting on the end table, just as they sat on the same table in three different houses during my lifetime.

I exhaled a heavy sigh and shook my head.  I had a job to do.  Memories and nostalgia would only make the task worse.  I walked past the kitchen and took a sharp left to the laundry room and pantry.  I scanned the pantry shelves, sizing up my opponent.  Formidable, but not impossible, I determined.

One by one, I plucked cans from the shelf, dropping them into black plastic bags.  At times, I stopped to check the dates.  Green beans, expired January 2010; cooking oil, best purchased by November 2007; and an opened bag of chips with guaranteed freshness until May 17.  Of what year, I don’t know.  All of it, along with the leaking cans of tomato sauce, went into bags.

I stacked the multiple opened rolls of cling wrap next to each other on a shelf.  I did the same for the Reynold’s Wrap, wax paper and assorted sizes of Ziploc baggies.  I wondered if the stockpile was intentional, or if Alzheimer’s made each purchase seem necessary.  I slid obviously used-but-recycled baggies into the trash.  My throat tightened, but I reminded myself:  I have a job to do.

Sadness enveloped me, brought on by the disparity between what I saw in front of me and the memories of my grandma’s pantry.  As a child, I could always find something sugary and tempting in the cabinets.  Shelves were stocked and ready to feed anyone who walked through my grandparents’ front door.  She loved food; so much so, that she became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers.  No one ever left her house hungry, except by choice.

I tied the bulging bags closed and surveyed the sparsely filled shelves.  All perishable food, which had perished long before that day, was removed.  What remained were stock pots, small appliances, dishes, and memories.  I wanted to mourn the emptiness in my heart, carved by all that was gone, but remembered that she stood with Jesus and Grandpa now.

That last thought could have been what kept the tears at bay.  Or maybe it was the realization that the spice cabinet was full.  After all, I had a job to do.


28 thoughts on “Grandma’s Pantry

  1. crumbl July 7, 2011 / 7:20 AM

    I like. Maybe one of the more approachable things you’ve written (not sure if this is fiction or real) … the writer’s (your) voice resonates. Not qualified to critique, but as they say about art, “I may not understand it, but I know what I like”.

    • jannatwrites July 7, 2011 / 9:18 PM

      Thanks, Crumbl. I’m glad you liked this one. Since it is part real and part fiction, I guess this would have to be fiction 😉

      Thanks for stopping by today!

      • crumbl July 7, 2011 / 9:31 PM

        I think, much like my cooking, it’s a mixture of fiction with a liberal dash of reality mixed in for flavour. This was a recipe that worked. 🙂

        • jannatwrites July 7, 2011 / 9:55 PM

          Since I didn’t have a recipe, I’ll probably serve the same old stuff next time 😉

  2. nrhatch July 7, 2011 / 7:51 AM

    Good for you, Janna. The dismantling of lives is hard on those left behind.

    When my MIL died, her purse and lotions/creams on her dresser sat where she left them for 18-24 months before any of her kids could manage the necessary purging.

    The whole of the house looked as if she had just gone round the corner to the store and would be back any minute.

    I’d rather dive into the purging while still numb . . . keeping only the best memories to cherish down the road.

    • jannatwrites July 7, 2011 / 9:30 PM

      It was hard, but at least we got the food out of the house. My husband cleared out the fridge – I was afraid to look 🙂 There’s still so much to do, but I’ll just follow the lead of my mom and aunt as far as that goes.

      I’ll make sure I let my kids know that they don’t need to feel bad about getting rid of my stuff when I’m gone. (I’ll wait until their older, of course; I don’t want to scare them!)

      Being able to let go of everything except the best memories is key, Nancy. I hope we’ve got the strength.

  3. Tori Nelson July 7, 2011 / 8:15 AM

    This might be my favorite post of yours so far. Just perfect.

    • jannatwrites July 7, 2011 / 9:31 PM

      Aw, thanks, Tori. That is a sweet compliment.

  4. SAS Fiction Girl July 7, 2011 / 2:17 PM

    Grandma houses make me a little sad. When my grandma died, her house became a living monument to her for the short while before my uncle moved in and gave it a much-needed makeover. I know she didn’t need all that stuff where she was going, but it seemed a little sad that all her carefully accumulated objects added up to nothing in the end. I don’t even know what happened to most of it.

    • jannatwrites July 7, 2011 / 9:44 PM

      I imagine it must’ve been hard for your uncle to make the house his own. I don’t like going through the stuff at all. I feel like a nosey voyeur..and a bit guilty for getting rid of their possessions. It’s part of life and death though.

  5. Carol Ann Hoel July 7, 2011 / 2:46 PM

    I’m sure your sweet grandma isn’t thinking about her old home, or her pantry, or her Alzheimer’s now. She’s living large in a better place, and perhaps she’s thinking about you. Your post is very touching. You have the right attitude: You have a job to do.

    I remember going through my grandmother’s home after she’d departed. It looked so much, as Nancy said, like she’d be back in a minute. Of course, that thought overwhelmed me, because I missed her a lot. It wasn’t long after her demise. Grandpa was with me. We had to get the place ready to sell. My grandfather soon became my first caregiver experience. Blessings to you, Janna…

    • jannatwrites July 7, 2011 / 9:48 PM

      I’m sure she’s not thinking about the house. She’s finally with my grandpa again.

      It sounds like you can relate well to the situation. It also sounds like you have had much experience with caregiving. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Carol.

  6. clarbojahn July 7, 2011 / 4:18 PM

    Nice post, Janna. Sorry you had to go through that. I never knew my grandparents or should I say, I met them once when on my way to America and I guess they couldn’t write or read. I never got a letter or post card from them. I try to be a good Grandma to my step grand son who’s eight now. He just left after a week with us. He’ll be back in two for a number of days. He says he likes being with us so I guess I’m doing my job right.
    Take care, May you find blessings in your job.

    • jannatwrites July 7, 2011 / 9:53 PM

      Thank you, Clar. I’m glad you had fun with your grandson. I think it’s good for kids to know their grandparents because it’s a bond that lasts a lifetime. Keep up the fun 🙂

  7. pattyabr July 8, 2011 / 9:40 AM

    Isn’t it amazing how the visual and the smells as a child all bring back memories to the forefront? I know that was difficult for you to sort through your grandmother’s pantry. You are courageous.

    I just brought home three marble topped tables and two chairs that belonged to my parents. They moved to assisted living from independent living and downsized again. I remember as a child coloring underneath those marble table tops. The crayon marks are not there anymore but my memories of them are.

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2011 / 9:19 PM

      It wasn’t a fun task, but my husband and mom were there with me. It would have been worse to be alone 🙂

      Those table sound beautiful, Patty. I’m glad you were able to take them into your home, especially with the childhood memories attached to them. I hope your parents are doing well.

  8. pattisj July 8, 2011 / 2:03 PM

    Very touching post, Janna. At age 10, I remember gathering with family at my grandmother’s, the stipulations for division of her belongings read from her will. My dad got to choose the first item he wanted, then his sister picked one, and on it went. I don’t remember much after that. The hard part for me was when the house was sold, then remodeled. No longer was the gliding swing on the front porch where Grandma had me practice reading to her. I remember having Beatles trading cards or something like that, and she had me read the information off the back, and told me my ancestors were from England.

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2011 / 9:39 PM

      You were awfully young when your grandma died. I’m glad you still carry wonderful memories with you.

      It would be hard to see your grandma’s house changed from what it was. I don’t think I’ll go by the house once it’s sold. Luckily, I have the luxury of being able to avoid it becuase I have no other reason to go to that area of town.

      Thanks for your nice comment, Patti 🙂

  9. journeytoepiphany July 8, 2011 / 7:31 PM

    Sometimes having a task at hand is a tremendous blessing. It helps us hold together the here and now, when we are tempted to long for the past. I am sorry for your loss. I’ll be praying for you my blogging friend.

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2011 / 9:40 PM

      You’re right, Journey. Distraction is a good coping method (but I’m beginning to think I’m using it a bit too much ;))

      Thanks for your prayers and your sweet comment!

    • jannatwrites July 8, 2011 / 10:22 PM

      Thank you for your nice comment, Brownpaperbaggirl. I’m glad you stopped by today.

  10. dorcas July 10, 2011 / 5:29 PM

    Amazingly written Janna.. Felt like I was there…

    • jannatwrites July 11, 2011 / 3:45 PM

      Thanks, Dorcas. I appreciate your kind words 🙂

  11. judithhb July 11, 2011 / 8:57 PM

    Great post and of course the fiction is mixed in with fact. Keep your memories of your Grandma alive and as I say – nobody can ever take away your precious memories.

    • jannatwrites July 11, 2011 / 11:11 PM

      Thanks for reading, Judith. The memories of long ago are sweeter than the more recent ones, but they are all mine 🙂

      I’m sure your grandsons will have lots of memories of you that they will carry with them forever, too. (Love the picture of the four of them you had on your blog :))

  12. Jackie Paulson Author July 12, 2011 / 8:30 PM

    I love that I was forced to move, and then realized I did not need to keep (everything)- this helped me to learn to let go.

    • jannatwrites July 12, 2011 / 8:57 PM

      Moving is one of the best ways to eliminate excess stuff. Isn’t it curious how we pare down when we move, but the stuff accumulates again without us even realizing it?

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