Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Goodbye, Mom. Hello, World.


Recommended Posts

My mother passed away less than two weeks ago. It happened very suddenly, but not entirely unexpected to our family as she had suffered from a number of health issues over the past ten years. My two older sisters and our father had been told on more than one occasion to "prepare for the worst." Only two months earlier she had been hospitalized with numerous strains of pneumonia and going home after six weeks on oxygen was infinitely preferable to living in a care facility. The night before she died, she attended a fundraiser dinner and dined with close friends. She went home happy and fell asleep with her arm draped over her husband of 53 years. At 72 years of age, she just never woke up.

When my sister called me at work, first thing on that last day in September, I did not cry when I heard the news. Neither of us cried during the 10-hour drive to Southern California nor were there tears when we arrived and hugged our Dad and sister, Jayne. "I want you girls to pack up her clothes and we’ll donate them to the local homeless shelter," my father explained the first night we were all together. "I know some people keep things like that for a year or so before they can get rid of them," he said, "but I would rather you girls pick out what you want now and have the rest go to a good charity that can use them."

The following morning, after breakfast, Susan, Jayne, and I commenced in clearing out the closets, keeping a sweater here and a purse there, but the bulk of the items bagged for the shelter. Being near completed with the project, I headed into the kitchen, experiencing my first pang of hunger in almost two days. Dad is sitting at the adjacent counter eating a sandwich and offers to make me one. Perusing the fridge, I find a small bowl of taco meat which looks appealing enough. "There are taco shells, lettuce, and cheese in there too, if you want." Dad says. I’m happy just warming it up in the bowl with a little sour cream, I explain. "It tastes kind of like beef stroganoff this way," I tell him – Dad being a known hater of sour cream. Sitting at the counter with him, telling him that Jayne and Sue are just about finished packing up the clothes, I compliment the flavors of the taco meat. "That was the last think your Mom cooked," Dad says.

My moment has come as tears stream down my face. Grief did not come from smelling the scent of Estee Lauder perfume on her clothes. Nor from Dad making sure that I received the black pearl ring that Mom had always wanted me to have. Grief came in a bowl of leftover taco meat; quietly, slowly, deliberately, suddenly.

The following days were filled with similar moments. At the mortuary, where a hundred people came to express their condolences, I did not weep at the wave of sadness that permeated the room, it came just beforehand, walking behind the mortuary building and seeing giant mushrooms growing from an old tree. I acquired my love of mushrooms from my mother. We always had to make them separately and never in dishes because Dad hates them. Going over old pictures of my mom, I see a surprisingly young-looking woman celebrating her 40th birthday at The Five Crowns restaurant in Dana Point, California, famed for its prime rib. Dad remembers that visit especially well as he reminisces that was the first time he tried escargot. "Don’t you remember, Little Sis?" he asks me, "You were about seven years old and you wanted escargot, only knowing it was French and all you wanted then was French food." Now it is a favorite of his and in the 30 years since, he and Mom had often prepared nothing more than a platter of escargot and a steamed artichoke as a satisfying dinner for the two of them.

Worrying about the next few weeks for Dad, we sisters banded together in the best way we knew how. Jayne prepared and froze up individual servings of chili. Sue made batches of lentil soup. I made potato leek soup. "I’m not going to starve! I can cook for myself" Dad protested. But we knew the next few weeks would be the hardest for him and because we couldn’t be there every day, offering our embraces in warm bowls of goodness was the best we could do.

The last night we were there, a feast of comfort food was made for Dad – southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttermilk biscuits, and collard greens. Dad is a Georgia boy and with my Mom’s deteriorating health, I knew he had not had a full southern meal of this size in several years and would be unlikely to make one for himself anytime soon. In the kitchen, the aroma of collards already simmering, we work together; Sue dipped the chicken into the milk before dredging the pieces in the spiced flour mixture. Placing the biscuits on the baking sheet, I watch Dad chopping the potatoes. "That was always a great knife," I complimented. Finishing his chore, Dad hands me the knife. "Grandma gave it to us when we got married. Her mom gave it to her and I’m sure Mom would want you to have it." I see the forge date on the blade, through the tears that begin to well again: 1843. I marvel at the legacy of this knife and what it means that it is now in my possession.

gallery_431_241_1097941726.jpg

Since my return to Napa, much has happened and I am saddened that I can’t share it with my mother. I’ve been hired as a freelance writer for the Napa Register covering food, wine, and entertainment. I have been approached by a London-based wine magazine as a possible correspondent for the Napa Valley. My writing career is taking off and I am saddened that my mother, who always encouraged me in my artistic, musical, and culinary endeavors, will never get to read anything that gets published.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn, condolences first and then congratulations.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Carolyn,

My condolences on the passing of your mother.

Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts with us. Food we share as a family, that we love from an early age, the term "comfort foods", feels so very right for times like this. They can bring wonderful memories to mind. Tears may come with these thoughts, but they will also bring many moments of laughter and warmth in future days.

Congratualtions on all your up-coming endeavours. Don't be too sad that your mom is not here to share your joy. Be comforted with the thought that if she was here, she would be very proud of you, as I am sure your father is. :smile:

Dejah

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

Link to post
Share on other sites
My writing career is taking off and I am saddened that my mother, who always encouraged me in my artistic, musical, and culinary endeavors, will never get to read anything that gets published.

I'm sure somewhere out there, she'll know, Carolyn.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn,

My thoughts are with you right now as you face these life changing events. Your father knew that you were the one to pass the knife to. No doubt so did she. Stay strong as you embark on your new projects, knowing that her spirit will keep you working to make her proud. Thank you for taking the time to write about what's happened. Celebrating your successes will no doubt be difficult in the months to come. We are with you.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn, thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a moving piece.

It brought tears to my eyes as I remembered dear family who have passed away and how we celebrate them through our shared traditions of food and family.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

Link to post
Share on other sites

First, I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother almost 20 years ago when I was 22 and she was 56. The sadness fades but the missing never ends.

My mother was not a gourmet cook but she was willing to try new things. When tofu started becoming popular in the 70's, my mother bought it and cooked with it(don't think my Dad was too impressed LOL). It is because of her that I think cooking is fun and not just a chore that has to be done. I, like her, love trying new things.

I too think I wish my mother was here to share special moments with(mostly my children) but I like to think she knows and is smiling with joy at the happy times in my life and hugging me during the rough ones.

One day at a time, life goes on.

Sandra

Link to post
Share on other sites

It would take a trip to the thesaurus to find the words that would tell you how this made me feel...your writing, and all that is behind it in terms of this particular experience you have so recently had...and the feelings that thread though it all in an intensity of finely-woven emotions that have been created by the life your mother offered while she was here.

You have packed love in those dishes you prepared for your father...love and sustenance of a sort that words can not offer. That is a continuance of what your mother did for you all...and that is the best thing this world has to offer.

He will grow stronger in this time, when he goes to the freezer and eats. Not from the food...but from what it holds.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn,

Thank you for posting the beautiful piece about your Mother's passing.

Where you wrote '"That was the last thing your Mom cooked," Dad says.' is where I broke into tears too. Thankfully, both of my parents are still with me, but I can imagine just how powerful a moment that was for you.

Maybe your Mother didn't live to see your work published, but I'm sure she understood that her love of food and cooking lives on as a part of you. She'll be there to share your joy when you are published, although, if she's like my Mom, she'd modestly decline any credit.

Might I suggest submitting this very article to Gastro?

SB (and WOW!, what a great knife!)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm so sorry to hear about your mom's passing. That was such a touching tribute.

Congratulations on your new ventures.

it just makes me want to sit down and eat a bag of sugar chased down by a bag of flour.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn,

First, my sympathies on your loss. My father passed in 1992, and I still wish I could share big news with him. In a way I do, but it's not the same.

Second, congratulations on your own big news. No one knows better than another writer what these assignments mean. So, good on you!

All good wishes to you, Carolyn.

"My tongue is smiling." - Abigail Trillin

Ruth Shulman

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn, that was a lovely tribute to your mother. My condolences on your loss, and congratulations on your literary accomplishments. It may be bittersweet that your mother isn't here to celebrate them, but I know you make her proud!

Like srhcb, I got choked up by the "taco meat" incident. It's the little, mundane things that get the tears flowing. You think that you're "dealing with it", and then some seemingly innocuous thing come out-of-the-blue to remind you. Whenever I'm channel-surfing and come across a a golf tournament, I still find myself thinking "I'll wait 'til the commercial break before calling Mom". Mom loved golf. I can't stand it.

I second the suggestion by marie-louise to share a special food memory - a great recipe, or just a fun story about food with your mother when you were growing up. No better tribute in a community like eGullet.

EDIT: misspelled your name. :sad:

Edited by edsel (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Carloyn,

I am deeply sorry for your loss.

On a much brighter note, though, I am not sorry for the story. It is remarkably touching and wonderfully told. Just beautiful. Really. (nice knife, too!)

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn:

My deepest condolences on your loss. I sit here with tears streaming down my face thinking of my mom, whom I miss every day, and the things I have of hers in my kitchen that might be old and beat up, but mean the world to me.

That was a lovely and I'm certain fitting tribute to a woman who gave you such passion for food and cooking. Everything you do is a tribute to her, and she most certainly knows and is as proud of you as your father and sisters are.

(((((hugs)))))

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm very sorry for your loss, Carolyn. I lost my mother unexpectedly the summer before my senior year in college, in 2002. I live by KatieLoeb's expression: Everything you do is a tribute to her.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

Link to post
Share on other sites

Caroline I know we've already had a bit of a "conversion" the day your mother passed away. I was happy to see your post and I know your mom is too. What a wonderful way to remember her! You will have those sights, smells, sounds, etc forever......sweaters don't last nearly as long.

My thoughts are with you and your family. I know your mom is soooo proud of you!!! Thank you for sharing this very intimate part of your life with us.

Wendy

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn, That wsa a beautiful and moving tribute. Losing a parent is always difficult because of the permanence. Time does ease the burden and you can reflect on all the positive memories. Like you, many of my most cherisheed memories of my parents revolve around food. My deepest condolences.

Congratulations on your writing success. It is writing like this that garnered it. You deserve it.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to post
Share on other sites

Carolyn, I'm moved that you decided to share those deep thoughts with us. Your father is lucky to have such caring daughters. Take good care of yourself and remember that your mother's love doesn't disappear with the end of her corporeal life on earth. As I type this, I can feel the love of my grandmother who died 18 years ago. I still miss her, but she continues to live inside of me and all of the people who she touched. Good luck to you in your new ventures!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...