In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Food for the Soul (and the Stomach).”
Food has always been a source of comfort for me, yes, even a problem. When I was young I would imagine that my mother was in the kitchen making a pot roast with potatoes and carrots. The smell would fill the house and sneak out the front door to tell us that it was time to eat. By the time we were sitting at a nicely set kitchen table, a new aroma of cookies would waft by to let us know what was for desert. My idea of family would be prayers before we ate, light conversation about our day over the meal, and a delicious sweet to top it all off. I had watched enough TV shows to know that there were families that actually lived that scene every night.
The truth of my young years was that there wasn’t a mother with an apron grilling and baking for her beloved family or a father at the head of the table. A homemade feast was reserved for holidays prepared by my grandmother, and a couple of times a week that would be cooked by my grandfather. It would be his famous spaghetti with bacon and onion or steak and baked potatoes. Every other night we would be at a restaurant. It was The Jolly Rogers on one night, The Hangman’s Tree on another, and Delmonico’s Pizza on Friday nights. They would have their cocktails and order us a Shirley Temple.
I was married and had children when our dinners became what I had dreamed of all of those years ago, without the apron. My favorite dinner to serve to my family of five was enchiladas, rice, beans and tortillas. It warmed my heart and me feel like ‘home.’ This became my real comfort food. We all sat at a table together and talked, sometimes yelled, had seconds when we wanted, then cleaned up the dishes and put away the left-overs. It wasn’t just the food that gave me that feeling. It was my children’s laughter, my husband’s playful ways in the kitchen, and the love that was portrayed by how we treated each other. That is what fed my soul.
WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Fly on the Wall.”
If you could be a “fly on the wall” anywhere and at any time in history, where and when would you choose?
I would land in the days of flappers, prohibition, jazz music and the women’s right to vote. The days of change had come in a big way with the invention of insulin for diabetics, penicillin (the silver bullet), bandaids and radios. My grandmother, Mary, was born in 1905 and was left motherless as a toddler then sent to a family in Chicago, Illinois by her father to be raised. She never was treated as a member of a loving family. No. As she got older, she was expected to clean, care for the children and cook. When she was eighteen, she moved on to go to a women’s Catholic College to study Chemistry.
She was a rebellious young girl with a mind of her own. Short hair was the style of the day. That wasn’t her plan to cut her long, beautiful, curly, red hair. But when her father became enraged that his daughter would not act as a nice Irish Catholic girl should behave, she cut the one thing that his father prized most about her, her hair.
Her father and mother had immigrated from Ireland to America before she was born. They held all of the ancient traditions and values of their homeland. Expectations were high for Mary to dress appropriately, learn her manners and her place in society. Women were wives and mothers, cooks and a housekeeper. School was not supposed to fill her young life. Dancing, short hair and drinking were not acceptable. As I said earlier, “a mind of her own.”
She graduated from college as a chemist and found a job in a hospital. She earned respect and a reputation in an all male profession. She did get married and had three children in order to fulfill her obligation to society. But her love was her work. Mary cherished her days and nights peering into her microscope to see the unseeable, writing in her log books with words of wisdom, and caring for her frogs that would be sacrificed for science.
It would have been amazing to have seen her at that time, my grandma that raised me. Little did I know then that she was a pioneer for women and breaking down walls for them. Women looked up to her as a hero and lived vicariously through her. They could only imagine what her life was like.
PLEASE DON’T ASK
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Plead the Fifth.”
It has been seven years since my son, Alex, passed away and ten years since my husband was killed in a metro link derailment. Would you believe that people still ask me how I am with trepidation in their voice? If it was just, ‘How are things?’ ‘What’s up?’ or ‘Anything new?’ I would be fine and tell them I’m fine and go on my way. But that quiet, almost inaudible, question,”So, how are you doing, Patty?” It isn’t any easier today than it was ten years ago. I still don’t know what to say. The truth is that I’m doing so much better. It has been a dark and hollow trek through that tunnel each day to come to this point where I am today. Now, I have a purpose, a passion, and a renewed love for life that I never believed possible. But, there is another truth. I still miss my son everyday. If I see a picture in the corner of my eye, my heart catches and the tears start falling, no matter how hard I try to hold them in. My dreams are still filled with good times and bad with my husband and it isn’t unusual to wake up holding my pillow in a strangle-hold, whispering through my tears, “Don’t go, don’t go!”
There isn’t a kind and easy way to ever ask a grieving mother or wife how she is doing with her losses. The fact is, there are things that will never change. The deep hole that has been stabbed in my heart with an ice pick when I lost my son, will never, no never, go away. And the devastation and hopelessness of having the love of my entire life ripped away in seconds because of an evil man who jammed his truck into the tracks, poured gasoline the inside and outside of his truck trying to get his wife’s attention, will not leave my heart or mind. With him I lost my best friend, my lover, all of our future hopes and dreams. We were supposed to be grandparents together, walk our children down the aisle, and enjoy our retired years together.
The one thing that I know that I know is that there is no time limit to grief and that question will never be an easy one to answer. I plead the fifth.