Every Saturday I go to Las Fuentes restaurant and buy my father the family pack of red cheese enchiladas, with sides of rice and beans. My father is one enchilada-eating kind of guy. If I’m lucky, my granddaughter will join me.
Early last month, however, they had a sign on their window. It said: “Closed today.” That today has lasted over a month. They tried to hang in there, but I’m guessing the virus that no one is allowed to speculate where it came from has claimed another casualty.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of Mexican restaurants where I live — God bless the Southwest — so I went to a different restaurant, Gabriel’s. We threw my youngest daughter her first birthday party there. That was 18 years ago, so I’m guessing your invitation should show up any day now.
“It doesn’t taste the same,” my father was quick to point out. “Are you getting them from the same place?”
“Would I go someplace else?” I said, not really lying.
“Well, tell them I’m not happy.”
For the record, Gabriel’s makes excellent enchiladas. My father is just a creature of habit.
“Why don’t you try The Lunch Box?” my wife said, suggesting the restaurant we go to when we’re in the mood for Mexican food. So I did and my father immediately quit complaining. My wife is not just beautiful, she’s smart.
He confided to her that they tasted just like the ones his mother used to make, and he’s been reminiscing about her ever since. Something as simple as that has made my father happy, and a happy dad is a dad we don’t have to medicate. Some of you will understand what I’m talking about.
The Lunch Box is close to where my sister lives, which happens to be the house we all grew up in. My granddaughter had a bag of Andes mint chocolates for her, so we dropped by for a visit. As we got out of the car, my granddaughter told me, “I really like these candies,” dropping a hint so big a boulder could have rolled after Indiana Jones in it. I promised to buy her some later, then thought about it and – what the heck – I tore open the bag and gave her three pieces. She ate one, then gobbled up the last two at the same time. She eats like my father, taking no prisoners.
My sister has three very loud dogs. If their job is to keep intruders away, then they do their job very well. Despite that, two cats have adopted my sister and made the front porch their home. One’s a male she calls Meatball, and the other’s a female she calls Sasha, because she’s sassy. Sasha was lounging on the porch by the front door. Whenever the male came close, she chased him away. Kind of like my first wife when I was feeling frisky.
Turns out, Sasha had two kittens hidden away in the brick flowerbed that goes along the front of the house. Until they stuck out their curious little heads, we had no idea they were there.
“Sasha,” my sister gushed, “you’re a mommy!”
They looked only a few weeks old. Reaching down, I picked one up. It hissed, so I quickly put it back down. Multiple punctures is not my idea of a good time. The other one ran off, around the corner of the house. My sister picked up the one who stayed, and, after making its disgruntlement known, the kitten settled down and let itself be held.
“Can your granddaughter hold it?” my sister asked me.
At first I said no, because, well.... that kitten’s claws and teeth were SHARP! Like an unholy combination of scalpels and needles. Edward Scissorhands only dreams about having appendages like those. After a few minutes, however, I gave in. The longing look in my granddaughter’s eyes was more than I could resist. She took the kitten gently in her arms. The kitten enjoyed being cuddled by her, and the feeling was mutual.
“What should we name the kitten?” my sister asked her.
“Flower,” my granddaughter said, “because she’s a girl.”
“They both are.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.”
Thinking of how Sasha chased Meatball away, it surprised me how comfortable she was letting us hold her baby. My sister, meanwhile, went to get her a can of tuna.
“Mommies need their energy,” she told us.
After a time, the kitten was put back in its hiding place, and the three of us went in search of the missing one. If it made its way to the backyard, things might not turn out so well for it when my sister’s dogs came out to do their business.
The kitten was hiding along the side of the house. My sister picked it up, took it back, and just like that it was time for us to go. My granddaughter was having a good time. She could have stayed there all day holding those kittens and visiting with my sister.
“Can we take them home?” she asked as we were leaving.
Her yearning tugged at my heart.
“No, sweetie,” I reluctantly told her.
“Aw,” she said.
My sister was also disappointed. She’s too young to become a cat lady.
On our drive home, true to my word, I bought my granddaughter a bag of Andes. That perked her up a bit. It wasn’t the same, but it had to do.
Once home, my wife asked her if she was going to share the candy with her auntie, my youngest, who was studying in her bedroom. My granddaughter reached into the candy bag, which was completely full, and pulled out a miserly two pieces.
“Is that all you’re going to give her?” my wife asked.
“I don’t want to run out,” she explained.
The worst thing about bathing a cat is how its fur sticks to your tongue.