Dad 2

He knelt down to check something at work and when he stood up, he nearly fell over. It wasn't a lack of coordination (though he's never exactly been a swan), nor simply "standing up too fast", nor was it fatigue. He took note of this anomaly but largely shrugged it off.

Later, he was writing numbers in a column and was finding it difficult to keep the numbers in a straight line. It was also hard to prevent a "4" from looking like an "X". For 64 years, the same brain had sent the same commands to the same muscles in the same hand, but suddenly it seemed the message was getting garbled on the way. The final straw was a slight slurring in his speech. Having never seen my father drunk, and knowing he wasn't at the time, this was a new experience for me. Clearly, something was wrong.

Obvious symptoms led to an obvious diagnosis by my mother and close friends which led to the emergency room. A test revealed no stroke, but between a CAT scan and an MRI, this buzzing, whirring, utterly annoying device that they found the problem; a "lesion" about the size of a lima bean at the base of his brain. There were two other lentil-sized "lesions" in other areas, but it was the "base" version that was the core problem. A biopsy verified that cancer was the culprit, and the kind that neither doctors nor patients look forward to finding.

The future details were unclear, and subject to the whims of fate and tenacity of cancer cells, but I believed it was time to take inventory.

In a previous entry, I've given praise to my father for, if not quite thoroughly educating me about food, then for at least offering a glimpse at what existed outside my humble surroundings. To him, I owe a great debt and one I have pondered trying to settle for a long time.

For years I've wanted an "ultimate" payback, some way of thanking him in one giant sweeping gesture for all he inspired in me about food. And yet, there is no single gesture that seemed adequate. I had grandiose plans of taking him to New York for his 60th birthday, of showing him - as he showed me - what food is capable of and the emotions it can inspire. But I realized a few years ago that I was pushing him beyond where he needed to go, and certainly beyond his comfort zone.

Food is a cumulative experience. You need to know what the bad tastes like to appreciate the good, and to taste good food to have a point of reference in your own kitchen or know when you're getting ripped off in the commercial version of someone else's.

To put it simply, honestly, I don't think he would have "gotten" New York. While great food is very much within his realm of appreciation, New York might be a bit of a stretch. It would be "wasted" on him. I came to realize that you cannot recreate in a single event what is ultimately a life-long journey. It took him 18 years to teach me what he knew about food while simultaneously figuring how how to raise a family, advance in a career, etc.

Rather than attempt to make it up to him in one fell swoop, I've decided to skip one "fancy" meal a month and take the money I would have spent otherwise and donate it to the American Cancer Society. A fancy meal to me is, maybe, $100 which, in turn, sounds like a lot of money when you think about donating a year's worth to a charity. But, considering what you get, in a karmic sense or a real one from the same expense, kinda seems worthwhile, doesn't it?

Comments

Gaetano said…
Hey that was an excellent read. Your kindness and values are refreshing.

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