I turned on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on my current flight to Las Vegas when my mind was flooded with a memory of my mom, and my eyes flooded with tears.
It was after one of her doctor visits at Froedtert and we went to Blue’s Egg for some brunch. It was her first time there and she LOVED it. She couldn’t stop exclaiming her classic, “Mmmmm Nummy!” as she dug into her eggs, hash browns, and toast. When the waitress arrived at our table, she told them, “You belong on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives!” We all laughed and the waitress inquired if we were there for any special reason and I told her that we were celebrating another successful day in my mom’s cancer battle. She smiled and said that it was a perfect reason to eat, drink, and be merry. We agreed as we finished our bloody marys and prepared to pay and head out.
But there was no monetary exchange that day, just exchanges of joy and gratitude as they bought us our brunch. It was such a breathtaking moment; to see my mom’s beautiful face fill with such surprise. Her stunning smile spreading wide as she thanked them repeatedly. She was so taken aback by there generosity; so genuine and sweet, almost childlike in her show of appreciation. We headed out after repeated thanks to them and their well wishes to us. We said we would be back but we never did return. Not for lack of wanting to.
As time went on, so did our lives and her treatments. So much changed, often on the daily. But many things remained the same, including but limited to our love of food and us enjoying it together. Over the course of her last few years on this earth, we dined together, cooked together, and talked food together. Many a grapefruit beer and bloody mary was shared. But I’d be lying if I said that it was enough to sustain me in this life without her.
When the spirit moves me, when grief washes over me, and on her birthday, holidays, and anniversaries, I pay homage to her through food and drink. Either creating delectable things that she loved or scouting them out at restaurants and bars. It’s these things that often make me feel the most connected to her as if she’s sitting next to me as I am creating and/or enjoying them. I envision her with me, I toast to her and with her, I hear her in my heart and mind, exclaiming, “Mmmmmm Nummy!” with her childlike delight. And even though it hurts, there’s this bizarre comfort and beautiful joy that comes from it. Because I’d give anything to have her at my table or in my kitchen again. And if this is the closest I can get to that, then that’s exactly what I’ll continue to do.
For anyone who is suffering loss, I encourage: be creative. Be inventive. Be strange. Demand union. Find ways. Create rituals to grieve your loss. Write letters. Read passages. Eat the foods they love. Toast them with cocktails they enjoyed. Wear their favorite shirt. Play the songs they always listened to. Set a place for them at the table. Whisper into the night and wait for answers. Light candles. Stand still. Dance. Love them, endlessly, brokenheartedly, unabashedly.
And so here we are. Me typing on a plane, tears streaming down my face, as Guy Fieri makes stops across America in that red convertible of his…. What a time to be in flight…
But as I type I find relief, I feel closer to her, and I look even more forward to all that will be feasted on during my 72 hours in Vegas. Eating, praying, and loving my way through each day is all I know how to do. And it seems to be working even when everything else seems not to.
I never did submit the Blue’s Egg nomination to DDD that day or any day after. Again, not for lack of wanting to. But life moves fast and cancer moved faster. But I believe it’s never too late to put that positive juju in the air and spread the good word, make the nomination, and give that compliment. In honor of her and in the spirit of gratitude, it’s time. Blue’s Egg, I am coming for you.
And to you, Mom. I raise my heart, soul, a grapefruit beer, and a bloody mary to you. Cheers to you. I love you and miss you so damn much.
And to you, cancer. Fuck. You.