I remember the first meal my dad made after my mom passed away.
I guess you couldn’t even call it a meal. A snack, maybe. Or better yet, a snack the size of a meal.
It was September 2007 and I was still filled with the jitters of beginning my last year of middle school. Stomach still swirling with the sour feeling of knowing my mom wasn’t going to be there waiting for me when the bell rang, sitting in her cream-colored Subaru. That her smile was a memory I would concentrate on every night, gripped with fear that I would soon forget the sing-song sound of her voice, the color of her electrifying red lipstick.
My dad worked during the day. Up until my mom passed away, she was the one who helped me pick out my clothes, took me to school and made my afternoon snack.
Now it was my dad’s turn.
He had plenty of things on his mind besides making me a snack. Laundry had to be done. Bills had to be paid. Tears that he needed to cry.
But he tried to keep things normal for me. He began that first day of “us against the world” by making my snack.
Half a bag of baby carrots. An overflowing handful of Wheat Thins. A jar of peanut butter. A cup of Tillamook yogurt.
He set down the feast -I mean- plate. I couldn’t hold back the giggles.
Quite the snack, dad. Quite the snack.
He would learn about appropriate snack portions, soon enough.
And I would learn that he could cook. Man, could he cook.
For those of you who ever came over for dinner, you can attest to the fact that dinner was always a form of entertainment – the jambalaya dinner party where he tripled the spices on accident. Sweat, towels, pitchers of water – but mostly laughter.
And there were the meals when his band of boys would come – my dad orchestrating a line of pepper chopping, potato dicing, onion sauteing. I would sneak over the railing to watch the action, too distracted to finish math homework.
His meals were so nourishing. I don’t think I was ever hungry the nearly four years my dad made dinner for me.
We played hard and we ate hard. The word diet was never said in our house. Calories were something left to my chemistry textbooks. We always had dessert. Always.
He never held back from feeding me the best. He took time to plan meals, was a subscriber to Rachael Ray’s magazine. The cookbooks I’ve saved are littered with dog-eared pages. I can still smell the meals, the memories, when I flip through them.
My dad and I had our hard times, there’s no use trying to hide that. But I know that he loved me.
Whenever a stinging memory comes and tries to make me doubt that, all I have to do is think of our family table – all those nights spent talking over plates heaped with food that he made for me. That he made for me. Serving me only the best. –1 Peter 2:2–