I wasn’t prepared for the empty seat at the table. He filled it so dutifully, yet quietly, each meal we shared.
This was the special occasion table, the linen-and-real-plates table. It barely fit our nuclear family of five, but somehow it detonated to fit our husbands and children.
He occupied the seat at one head of the table, across from my mom at the other end for a balanced table. The rest of us scurried to grab the spaces in-between, the youngest in high chairs like jesters off to the side.
This table was solid wood, built for joy. There was the occasional skirmish around it. We mostly broke bread and blew out candles here.
Cancer tried to take it away.
COVID tried to take it away.
The disagreements all families have tried to take it away.
We always came back though, and he sat in that same spot, asking his grandchildren and sons-in-law for extra ice cream and cheesecake, a procurement specialist for the good things in life.
This was the only throne he ever wanted. He was head of state in this fatherland. He will always fill that seat.