breakfast with dad

Recently This American Life put out a call for their father’s day show. I submitted a version of this story, but it wasn’t selected. They said they were overwhelmed by the response. I thought I would share it here.

During one of the summers we spent back east with our father and grandmother, my father made us breakfast. He had come home the night before, three sheets to the wind (as my grandmother would say), and my grandmother let him have it. He had made a mess in her kitchen and she didn’t like that he had been ignoring us for the most part since we arrived.

Maybe what she said sunk in a little, or maybe he just felt guilty. But that morning we woke up to find my father scrambling eggs. He announced he was making us breakfast. He kept going on and on about how these were going to be the best eggs we had ever had as we watched him step into our grandmother’s pantry and heard him rattle with the spice bottles. He then grabbed the ketchup bottle and put in a big glug.

He was acting like he was the next Julia Child, impressed with his culinary creativity. I secretly hoped he would burn the eggs in the pan, but I also couldn’t help laugh at his silliness. This was the side of my father I loved, and didn’t see much of (although in some ways it could also get scary).

The eggs didn’t burn. And after a few minutes my sister and I each found ourselves staring down at giant mounds of scrambled eggs. They were green (despite all that ketchup). At this point, there was no way we couldn’t NOT eat them, and somehow managed to clean our plates – toast is a good thing.

That was probably the last time my father made me breakfast. Of course I had no idea at the time.

A part of me really does feel for him. As best I know he was there when my sister died. I don’t think he ever thought that he would outlive either of us. This is a man who told us that when he was 40, we should just shoot him and put him in a Hefty bag, and leave him on the curb.

Perhaps a small part of him was jealous (my sister died before she turned 34), but I cannot imagine that there wasn’t grief too. One like he had never known, and which from all accounts is hard to recover from. It isn’t natural to lose a child. It goes against the natural order.

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