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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Salt of the Earth. By John von Daler

                        Well-intentioned doctors had made their points very clearly: cut down on the #salt or you both will die of heartattacks.  The old couple had undoubtedly heard and understood the message, but what was life without the pungeant gravies and sauces of Sunday dinner?

                 We would come by their little white, stucco home after church on Sunday at 12:30. The windows would be all steamed up. Grandmother would be setting the table for six and making gravy. The roast would be in the oven. Grandfather would be reading the Tulsa World, the Sunday edition, in his easy chair. We would arrive just in time to sit down at the dining table that was covered with hot dishes and platters: the huge roast beef falling off the bone, plates of baked potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and yams, dishes of pickled pumpkin, cucumbers and onions, and terrines of thick, dark gravy.
                Grandfather would sit at the end of the table and he would start the meal by chatting a while with his friend, God, for whom he outlined the best events of the week, the month, and our lives, plus an intimate selection of our best attributes of which he hoped God was aware. He would sign off with a great thank-you for the trouble God had gone to. And then we would eat.
                The eating too had its overture: the addition of the salt to each and every item on grandmother and grandfathers' plates. As the rest of us sat in silence, they would apply the white grains profusely and intensely as if they were servicing a whole salt lick for a herd of deer in some national park. It was a fascinating sight in as much as we all knew that their intense preparation of the food on those plates in all amicability had become a kind of suicidal gesture.
                I was still a very small child at this point. I remember hoping that the God with whom my grandfather spoke so nonchalantly would show up casually, without fanfare, to put things right. I would see the whole event from behind the edge of the dining table that just about reached my neck, sitting as I was on a grown-up chair:
                God comes out of the kitchen with a tray of fresh carrots in his hand. He quietly serves a few carrots to each person. He pats me on the head. Then, having placed the little silver tray on the table by my grandmother, He makes a little speech:
                Now Reverend, you know that I am looking forward to your arrival in the Great Kingdom Beyond just as much as you are. You and I have great issues to discuss. You want to know about the Virgin Birth and lots of other subjects. Well, we will discuss them, I assure you of that.
                But as much as I am looking forward to your arrival, I still would like for you to grace this earth with your presence absolutely as long as possible. Now I want you to eat these carrots and cut down on your salt and carbohydrates and start moving that old body of yours. You have a family to talk to and people to see. Now I want you to get back on track and enjoy this earth that I have entrusted to you! After all, I have not placed people here just to move on to something else!
                After God had spoken, there would be a silence and Grandfather, rendered speechless for once, would reluctantly begin to chew on a carrot. God himself would suddenly enter into the steam coming from the roast, vanishing into the air.
                I must confess that this never happened. God never came and my grandfather never switched from salted beef to fresh carrots. Grandfather never knew that he had a little atheist at his table either. A few months later he was dead. I hope he went on to the heaven of his choice.
                You did not describe God!
                Like any demanding reader, you want to know more. What did God look like? you say. But it never happened! I answer. On the other hand, you have a right to make your demands even of a little atheist imagining impossible scenes at a dinner table in Oklahoma. All right I will tell you what God looked like!
                He looked like my favorite baseball player.

There are
some salty stories
in my book,
Click on the picture
to buy or peruse:

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