Family, friends, food


Good food is best enjoyed in the presence of good company. This old adage rings all too true after a wonderful weekend of birthday celebrations for my other half.

With the hunting season in full swing, we all flocked to my mother's to enjoy her take on guinea fowl, which she roasts in the oven and serves with stewed Brussels endives (with that bit of mother magic known as a spoonful of sugar), potato croquettes and of course her infamous grape sauce. That sauce conjures Proustian memories, because for as long as I can remember autumn, I remember this particular dish.

November is also a particularly poignant month for our family, as we commemorate the death of my father, on my other half's birthday. Last Sunday, it will be exactly 11 years ago since he died.

I was in the US at the time, visiting with my future in-laws. After my father woke us to wish my SO a happy birthday, we had gone out for the Washington Post, the New York Times, mulled cider and some fresh pains au chocolat from the local farm stand. It was a cold, grey day and we only had an evening dinner date, so we retreated back to the comfort of the warm bed.

At 11 am my sister rang to say something was horribly wrong and that she was on her way to the house. I rang my mother, who at that time was standing in the street, flagging the ambulance down. By then my father had already died from a massive coronary, but it would take me one more hour to find out as he was only declared dead on arrival at the hospital. It was left to the doctor in the emergency room to break the news to me by phone on remote Cape Cod, as my mother returned home to sleep alone in the marital bed for the first time in 28 years, accompanied by her parents and my sister.

I remember the primal howl that erupted from somewhere deep inside of me; I remember sitting in the shower with the cold water pounding on my face and body in hopes that I would wake up from this nightmare. I remember throwing roses into the ocean that afternoon. Above all, I remember my last visit with him in the morgue, as he lay there tan and peaceful.

Over the next days, family members from all over the world convened to bid him goodbye. We cooked, we ate, we dined out. After the funeral, we had a wake and again we ate. That Sunday, we had a last meal together before everyone, including my other half, left for their respective homes. I do not remember much of the meals themselves, but I do remember the ebb and flow of conversation, the memories shared, the warmth of a family together.

That same Sunday afternoon, after putting my exhausted mother to bed, my sister and I fell asleep on the couches in the living room. At 5:03 p.m. I woke up to the chime of a doorbell. I staggered to the door half asleep, only to find nobody there. I realized, in that same moment, that it was the moment my father must have died, exactly one week ago, on the same sofa on which I had been sleeping... and I wept, for I felt terribly alone in that instant.

Time has passed since, and over the past eleven years, I have implemented a scorched earth policy. I prefer not to look back, not to reflect on the past, but instead to move ahead. The second part of our weekend was spent with friends, over food, during a brunch, and even this evening, we dined with friends.

And yet, deep down, among the friends, the family, and over the food, one can never quite shake that feeling of being quite alone.

For my father...

5 messages:

Fresco said...

I'm all gone quiet here...

vikki said...

This was incredibly beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing it.

Milo said...

Moving and powerful. Thanks for sharing such an intimate moment.

Wildcard said...

really nice indeed.

Lula de Montes said...

Thank you all. It came straight from the heart.

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