I recently had a burst of affection for the stuff, so I posted “I love grapefruit!” on my Facebook page, and some of my friends were sure I had finally given up on the sanity project. The other reason why I put such an enthusiastic, seemingly nonsensical statement on my wall is I was emotionally exhausted from traversing the mountains of angry words I encounter online. Thinking about grapefruit reminds me of WHY I love it, and so it is STORY TIME!
We have to go back in time to my last year and a half of college. I was looking for a cheap living situation and a way to get out of working three jobs and going to school full time. Someone in the jobs-for-college kids-with-little-to-no-skills-or-experience-office recommended I check out the bulletin board in the hall. There wasn’t much that I was interested in doing there, but I saw a small notice with a number that I took back to my Portland apartment that I shared with two other women.
“Bob” was a recently widowed father of two young children who also worked 50+ hours a week as a salesman, putting hundreds of miles on his car a week. He was looking for someone to live in the bedroom above the garage and be a nanny for his kids. I would be able to live there and eat for free, PLUS he paid me another few hundred dollars a month.
I know that it sounds a little cheap by today’s standards, but it was a deal LAST CENTURY.
Besides, it was a cushy job. Bob was an affable, avuncular type, who had spent the last two years of his life caring for a terminally ill wife, two small children, a house and yard, and working overtime. The guy didn’t know how to let go of all the plates he had been spinning for so long, so he started to take care of me, too.
To be fair to my very young self, I was there every morning to “help get the kids ready,” but when I got down to the kitchen he had already gotten the kids up and dressed, made lunches, set the table and placed a nicely cut grapefruit half at my place. He had “segmented” the grapefruit, by carefully cutting along each one of the triangular mouthfuls and along the outside, so all I had to do was scoop them out with the spoon that was also at my place.
The problem was: I DIDN’T LIKE GRAPEFRUIT. I had probably tried it a few times, but never was convinced, so I officially was in the “doesn’t eat grapefruit” camp.
The other problem was: Bob had segmented a grapefruit for me and put it at my place at the breakfast table.
So I did what you would do in my place: I ATE THE GRAPEFRUIT.
That night, Bob got home from a busy day and made us all a gorgeous dinner. We sat around the table and got to know each other better. Bob asked me what groceries I needed him to pick up at the store the next day. I tried not to choke on my chicken in surprise.
I had picked up the kids after school and played with them for a couple of hours. After dinner, I helped clean up the kitchen. The next day I would do some light housework. But this was the best job I had ever had!
I was unused to someone else preparing my meals; I had lived off Subway Sandwiches and Cheez-its for much of my four years at college. I had stumbled onto a wonderful cross between being a house-guest and a babysitter. I’m talking about the great babysitting job where the parents put the kids to bed before you get there, order you pizza and give you the Netflix remote!
So the next morning, when I came downstairs and saw a grapefruit at my place, I ATE THE GRAPEFRUIT.
I ate grapefruit every day for months. How could I not?
By the time I had graduated and gotten married, I had lived with Bob and his kids for a year and a half. We had grown close, and I had been able to pry some adult responsibilities out of his hands, to help ease the stress in his life. I stayed in the kitchen until after the kids were in bed, and listened to his stories of when his wife was sick and all the things that they had been through.
He helped and supported me any way he could, and was always respectful of me, treating me as an equal, even though he was seasoned enough for me to look up to him as an elder, which I did.
I ate the grapefruit, because it was given in a spirit of caring provision. I ate the grapefruit, because Bob already had two kids complaining at the table. I ate the grapefruit, because I was thankful that my mother, who had recently battled cancer, was returned to me scarred but healing.
And when I didn’t have Bob to prepare my grapefruit anymore, I found that I craved grapefruit, and would think of him every time I ate one.
So I guess this story is about gratefulness for gifts that we don’t even know we want or need yet. I am thankful for the gifts that make me pucker, so I can savor the sweet when they are placed before me.