When I posted last, I promised that my next post will be from Paris. I thought that I would write a little towards the end of the trip, in a quiet moment in between being the busy tourist, trying to see and experience as much as I could of this 50th birthday gift to myself. I did not know that my holiday would end in pain: two days before the end of the Paris trip, I got news that my dad was critically ill: I got back in time to see him, heavily sedated and on life support. I sat there, whispering to him, telling him about the trip, telling him that I was happy, telling him that I love him, that I will always love him. He died the next morning. Afterwards someone said that he probably held on until I came back. I’m not sure about that. I want to believe that he heard me, but the level of sedation he was under, made it impossible, I know.
The funeral was on Monday. I have been back at work, feeling a bit numb most of the time, with deep sadness breaking through every so often. Not feeling much like cooking, though I have cooked a meal or two since then, not really feeling like eating either, but I seem to end up eating whatever is served to me anyway…so I am experiencing symptoms of grief, which is normal and even good…
I thought about writing something profound and or witty about funeral food, but I cannot: not yet. My sisters in law organised the platters of food, which included spring rolls and baby sosaties and samoosas and sweet chilli dips and on the sweet side, custard slices. I could not have any: it all tasted like sawdust. Yet I saw others tuck in with life affirming gusto. I was overcome though unexpectedly by a deep craving for koeksisters, of which there were none. Growing up Afrikaans, I actually cannot recall a single funeral where those were not served: in neat little rows in rectangular serving trays or fanned out in pretty round glass or porcelain plates.
I actually went to Woolworths that evening and bought a punnet of their baby koeksisters and much to the amusement but also deeply felt empathy of my lover, stuffed four or so into my mouth one after the other, closing my eyes against tears, my teeth crunching through the sugary crust, sweet syrup oozing coolly on my tongue.
It has been hard to hold the pleasure of a long awaited holiday in Paris in the same space as the pain of my father’s death. Yet, in moments I am able to talk and think about the trip remembering the food: the fun and the romance of ordering in French from little restaurants’ menu of traditional French bistro food, remembering one evening ordering a gigantic rib of beef with a marrow bone, sliced lengthways to offer warm, browny beige marrow up in a boat of bone, served with pommes frites. It was the speciality of his favourite restaurant, according to the Parisian friend who took us there. And the pure pleasure of buying fresh ingredients at a Paris market and cooking a meal in a French kitchen. And the sheer romance of having a picnic on the banks of the Seine: drinking wine in the middle of the day in public, with a crusty baguette, some French saucisson and a creamy Camembert from Normandy bought at yet another wonderful market on a Saturday morning: Marché Ave du Président Wilson.
My father, when he could still speak, did not allow my siblings to let me know how ill he was, so that I only were told via sms two days before I would be back when he was not conscious any more that he was in ICU on life support. There is a part of me which is grateful that I could have had those carefree, romantic days of pleasure, but I am struggling somewhat with guilt that I have been able to have my wonderful holiday while everyone else at home were trying to cope with the trauma of seeing a father unexpectedly become ill to never recover.
I suppose that is how life goes: that in a briefest moment, our pleasure, our joy can turn to pain and sorrow.
Nothing to be done, except live it. And LIVE: cook, eat, drink, sleep, love, make love, work, cry, laugh, write. And cook, and eat…