Death by Meatloaf
I have no idea how my grandparents got on. He had a raucous sense of humor, but I can honestly say I don’t have a single memory of my grandmother laughing, most certainly not at herself. On the contrary, my grandfather’s attempts to tease her about her less than gourmet cooking skills were always met with tight-lipped admonishment. And so, the following memory stands out as both poignant and symbolic, and one that I have repeated to my children on more than one occasion, to their delight and amusement.
My grandfather was a pharmacist, and he and my grandmother owned a drugstore in Vancouver, Canada. In those days, drugstores were destination hangouts. Kids sat on freezer chests with sliding glass tops, eating popsicles and ice-creams while reading comic books. (“They’d pay for one, and at the end of the day, I’d find a half-dozen wrappers on the floor,” my grandfather recounted, laughing.) He had his own recipe for face cream that all the women swore by, and my mother has fond memories of making it in the kitchen, using an electric mixing bowl and the blender to form the concoction, before spooning it into attractive jars for shelving.
It was also a place where, after work, husbands would stop by for a soda and conversation with my grandfather over the lunch counter before heading home to their wives and families. Since my grandfather worked late, my grandmother dropped off dinner before feeding my mother and uncle at home.
One night, a doctor from the community stopped by, and, after peeling off his coat and sliding onto one of the stools, he sniffed the air appreciatively. “Is that meatloaf? It smells delicious.”
My grandfather shook his head sadly.
“Don’t eat that,” he said. “It’ll kill ’ya.”
The single doctor confirmed that my grandfather did not want the aromatic loaf before accepting it to take home for his dinner.
At this point in the telling, my grandfather could barely choke out the following line, as his glasses steamed up with tears, and he was laughing so hard his false front teeth slipped down.
His voice strangled with laughter, he finally managed to squeak out the punchline. “The next day, they found him dead in his office.”
No matter how many times I heard that story, it always made me laugh. Adding to the giggle-fest was my grandmother’s inevitable reply before stalking out of the room: “Dave, your teeth!”