When I moved to my new apartment, I ordered French Toast take-out. After the first and then the second bite, I began to weep.
It tasted so much like your French Toast–made lovingly and specially with Hawaiian Bread–I struggled to swallow around the lump in my throat. A part of me did not want to eat it. I wanted to take great gulps of water to drown the taste away. But another part of me, the part of me longing for comfort in the great mess I’ve gotten myself into in this last week, could not stop eating.
I missed you so much then, holding my plastic knife and fork, forgoing syrup because I did not want to dilute the taste of your French Toast, the taste of comfort I felt like God was offering.
Sometimes I forget that you are gone and when I remember the sadness hits me in the gut, as if I am a child fallen from the monkey bars and all the breath goes out of me. Each time this happens, it is less dramatic but it still happens regularly. It’s
almost easier to pretend that you are a drive away, albeit a six hour drive, but a drive. I don’t consciously pretend but eating that French Toast, knowing and feeling your absence, I realized that’s exactly what I have been doing.
So I cried while I ate it. I cried the whole time because it reminded me of you and you are not here any longer and because I have been having such a hard time in this giant pickle and it felt like you, through this random restaurant’s French Toast, were offering some type of comfort, a kindness.
And it was comforting.
It hurt too though, because I was actively feeling, something I tend to avoid. But as I ate, slowly with tears falling on Styrofoam, I was glad to hurt. It felt healthy and right to mourn you then even as you comforted me over this stupid mess that has tripped me up. So I ate and cried because it felt right.
I cried because I missed you; I cried because I made a huge mistake; I cried because there are things I wish I could say to you; I cried because I remembered the picture of you and Nonno–two great men, both sides of my family, and me, the first grandchild for each of you–holding me with such pride and joy and youth.
I am grateful that I was first because it means that I am the eldest. It means I remember a younger and more tender version of you. I remember your bedtime stories. I remember your Lemon Soup; how I told you I liked it a lot to spare your feelings which meant you made it for me whenever I saw you. I remember how proud you were of me at every graduation and every important moment. I remember the rusty, “I love you too,” that sometimes was so hard for you to say.
You are the hardest worker I have ever known. You went through more than anyone else I have ever personally met and I know this because I listened. I asked you about things and you told me things you didn’t tell the others. I thought you could fix anything in the world; I thought you could build anything too. And you did. You did.
If you were here, you could not fix this mess. I know that.
I don’t forget that you blustered and yelled and could be grouchy too, but I do not forget the rest because to do so would be dishonest. People rewrite history when they forget your French Toast, when they don’t remember the way you would have done anything for your family or a neighbor or just about anyone you ever met. Did they ever sing songs with you like I did? Did they ever just see you as storyteller who just wanted to be listened to?
When I think about it now, I know that you loved me and were proud of me. I know you wanted the best for me and worried about me. I know you sometimes cursed me too but you were never indifferent, never unfeeling, uncaring. I know that you wanted to be loved and respected.
People can say what they like now. They can blame you for wounds, remember the hard parts of you instead of the good, even the great. I won’t do that though because it isn’t true picture of the man you were. If they endured one tenth of what you did, they would fold. I would fold. In that way, you were a prince of a man, a hero. Your shoulders bore more than any of us can even imagine, far more than you ever even told us. I do not and cannot begrudge the way you coped.
I miss you.
The ironic part is that if you were still here, I could not say that to you. I never shared my deepest fears with you or talked about my greatest dreams. You were a great man but talking about feelings was not something you knew or practiced.
So it made sense, that last week, when I did not want to see anyone or talk to anyone, because of my mess, when I did not want to talk about it, that God chose to comfort me tangibly with a part of you. You would not have made me talk about it and He did not either. He just sent me French Toast that tasted as if you had scooped it from the pan and placed it on my plate.
I ate it all up.
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