Sometimes it is a very small thing that tips me off balance. Something minuscule is added to the scales of everyday living, and I am knocked off course. Something as small as a speck, a mote, a grain.
It is morning. The house is quiet. I am tipping a spoonful of coffee grounds into the pot, waiting for the whistle of the kettle, enjoying the stillness and the aroma and the anticipation of my morning shot of caffeine.
Then, with the last grain falling from the spoon, comes a thought: Dad loved coffee.
Just that. And I have let go of the spoon and am gripping the edge of the work surface, bent over, feeling that familiar squeeze, waiting for it to come, that deep ache which wells up, pushes to the surface and breaks in a sob: the voice of grief.
‘Would you like an espresso?’ I have a picture of him saying this after a meal, waving his newly purchased stainless steel Bialetti pot in an expansive gesture, insisting on the Italian pronunciation of the word.
I see him sitting at my kitchen table while I fix a pot for him. He has spread the newspaper out and is turning the pages in his slow, methodical manner. He turns to look at me as I bring the pot over. ‘Ah, lovely! A drop of coffee.’
He is in the local farm shop cafe with me, perusing the cakes, a small-boy look of eyes-bigger-than-stomach greed on his face. I order him an Americano, thinking with no small twinge of irritation that he gave up the milk in his coffee for health reasons, but he is about to consume acres of fat and sugar in one slice of that Bakewell tart.
I see him, too, in hospital, propped up on pillows, wincing at the acrid ‘instant muck’ the NHS provides. ‘You get a taste for it in the end,’ he says, smiling.
Sometimes it is a very small thing that tips me off balance. Something as small as a grain of coffee.