On Making Sandwiches

Posted: June 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

This morning the paper towels were torn off the roller and floated onto the kitchen counter. Each little section took its place in the temporary runner to hold the slices of bread. The hands pulled the bread out of the plastic bag and laid each piece gently upon the bed of white. The assembly line moved each portion of the sandwich to its appointed destination, some peanut butter here, some jelly there.

Sometime between when the towels were lying all naked on the counter and they had received their first adornment it arose, the memory of another kitchen in a house from my youth. The hands that placed bread upon paper towels were those of my father. He was preparing sack lunches for his sons before they went to school. His posture was slightly bent over, like a watch maker inspecting the springs. These were his hands and not those of his wife, our mother, because her hands were now finally, eternally at rest. And he made the sandwiches.

Time and experience are sage teachers; a moment from youth is never seen the same from the vantage point of maturity. At the time I couldn’t have been less interested in such a sandwich making enterprise. Isn’t that what parents do, make sandwiches? Only now can I see that his frame was bent by loneliness and sadness over that counter. Only now do I wonder what he was thinking as he spread mayo on the bread and topped it with baloney. What does a widower feel as he makes sandwiches for hungry sons who are so focused on themselves they hardly notice him?

Much of what we do we do because we must, because if we don’t do it no one will. We try to do the right thing whether our heart is in it or not. And if we feel too sorry for ourselves we try to give up that pity party for Lent. But other times our busy hands let our minds and hearts drift up and out to places unknown to sons or daughters or friends or bosses or neighbors. They just think we’re making sandwiches.

In times like that, with paper towels on the counter, his mind may have actually been traveling back to the first time he handed her a sandwich on a napkin at a picnic on a summer day. And maybe she dabbed the napkin at the corner of her mouth and they laughed together in that dreamy young kind of way.

“Here, don’t forget your lunch,” he called out to the boys on the way to the bus.

“Thanks, Dad, see you tonight.”

“Yes, have a good day.”



  1. Gloria Beranek says:

    So touching, Tim . . .

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