Every work day at noon the siren on the tall pole in front of the fire station would sound for about 15 seconds. My grandfather, working in his machine shop, would stop, pull out his watch to make sure that the siren was right on time and then wash up before heading home while at home my grandmother would hear the siren, glance at the old mantel clock sitting on the cabinet in the kitchen and finish preparing the mid-day meal.
The trip home meant a stop at the post office to pick up the mail along with the other men heading home for dinner.
“Hello, Tom”, and then he’d walk into the post office to pull the mail from box 134. From the post office it was just a couple of blocks to his space in front of the small white house on O Street. Before he got out of the old green Chevy a pickup truck passed and pulled into the space next door.
“Hello, Abe” and the two would walk up to their houses on parallel sidewalks like they did every day.
As my grandfather came in the house my grandmother would step out of the kitchen to greet him with a, “Hello, Dad’ and then take the mail to see if there was a letter from the kids as he took off his hat and coat and went to wash his hands.
The table was the same family table that had been in the dining room for years and as they sat together at one end he told her how good the meal was just like he did every day and she, like she did every day, touched his hand and said, “thank you”. The same people, the same house, the same meals, just as it had been for most of fifty four years.
After eating he always went into the living room to lie down for a few minutes before heading back to the shop while she cleared the table and took the dishes into the kitchen. Wash the dishes, dry her hands, hear him get up off the couch, glance at the clock and then kiss him before he headed back out but today after she dried her hands she listened for more than a few seconds frozen in front of the clock.
Fifty four years is a long time, a string of years where every day can seem like an endless extension of the day before. Fifty four years but tomorrow when the siren blares at noon she won’t glance at the clock.