Making Dinner for My Father

I made dinner for my father the other day. Nothing special or elaborate. Just spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread and a side salad. This is the first time I can remember cooking a complete meal for my father, all by myself.

When I grated the onions, no one looked over my shoulder and said, ″Good job, princess.″ I added the salt and pepper without a single ″just add a little more pepper.″ The gluten-free breadcrumbs elicited no commentary. I formed the meatballs without interference. No ″why don’t you go sit down, princess.″ It was just me, alone, in the kitchen.

I even managed to boil two different kinds of pasta — regular and gluten free — a pan of sauce, and made the garlic bread without anyone saying a word to me. A normal experience for me, most days. Never a day when my father was there.

After everything was ready, I plated his meal and handed it to him, receiving a whispered thanks in return.

I’d dreamed of being able to do this for years. To be able to cook for my daddy. To get a smile in return. To make him proud of my kitchen capabilities. My time finally arrived and all I wanted to do was cry.

My father is a chef and the kitchen is his domain. He expresses his love through the meals he cooks. He’d revel in making large meals for all the holidays he didn’t work. Even though he didn’t celebrate Easter or Christmas, he didn’t care. He saw it as an opportunity to make his family happy with large, delicious meals, ones that took all day to prepare.

Every Thanksgiving was ″Two Meat Thanksgiving″ with not only a turkey, but a large roast beef, too. Christmas is always an eclectic mix of Swedish, Iranian, and American dishes. Cookouts and barbecues came in the summer and any meal I wanted on my birthday.

When I was diagnosed with my chronic illness, my daddy would come every Monday, his only day off, and cook meals for me. He’d make sure there were enough left overs to get me through the days I couldn’t cook for myself.

With all these meals came rice. Heaps and heaps of rice. He’d always, always make sure to give me some of the crunchy rice, from the bottom of the pan. The very best part. He did this because he loves me best of everyone in the world and that’s how he shows it. With meals and hugs and the crunchy bits of rice.

My father hasn’t cooked a meal for me in weeks. I cook for him instead. Making his breakfast omelet and his dinners is my new routine. Cancer has stolen from him, and me, the language he normally uses to express himself. It’s stolen his voice, as well. I read him in gestures and barely breathed words. I also read it from the smile he gives me when I bring him his plate. We have to learn this new language in whatever time we have left.

I long to make him a plateful of rice, and to give him all of the best crunchy bits.

But I don’t know how.

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