Cooking is my happy place. When I’ve had a bad day, there is nothing more soothing to me than heading into my kitchen and playing.
Friday afternoon, as I was procrastinating about several projects I have going on right now, I checked what I like to call ‘the crackbook’ aka….Facebook. There, I saw one of my cousins had posted a RIP in regards to their father.
I immediately picked up the phone and called said cousin. Before the rest of our family members could read about the news on the internet, I turned around and proceeded to call other family members, most importantly, those not on the crackbook.
The uncle in question that passed can best described as a character. He could be a hard man to love, but I adored him. And he adored me right back. That fact was evident to anyone who ever happened to be around us – or so says my husband.
He was married to my mother’s younger sister Loretta. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 39 – she may have actually just turned 40 – anyway, when I went through my whole stomach tumor ordeal a few years back on the eve of my 40th birthday, all I could think of was Aunt Loretta. Andoreda as we kids called her.
She fought a long hard battle 10 year battle with cancer that she didn’t win. She willed herself to live years after her 6 month expiration date given by doctors because she wanted to see her kids grow up. She wanted to make sure they could take care of themselves at the very least, and once the first one was old enough to drive, she let go. My Uncle Peter had had diabetes since he was a kid – and as long as I’d known him, he’d never really taken care of himself. I will give him this – I did see him make an effort to take care of himself when he came to visit us a few years ago. We had a great visit and that memory will live in my heart right next to the one where he would take me to the candy store (the 7-11 on Old Court Road in Pikesville) in his orange Datsun pickup truck. During that visit, he never stopped talking about his wife. He was down here to meet up with a woman he’d been talking to on-line, through an equestrian dating website – he told her he was staying with his niece and her husband, he told her my husband had a rack of canoes parked in front of our house and that we lived near some park and she totally knew who we were and where we lived, which amused him to no end and backed up my theory that everyone in a 4 county area knows our house. We are a landmark even if we don’t have canoes anymore.
Uncle Peter’s passing has made me realize that I’m going to have to deal with my estranged siblings and possibly mother in the coming days. My last run-in with them resulted in several years of heavy therapy, with a therapist that I really love but our current insurance company tells me I can no longer see. (That’s a totally different tangent). Thankfully, at the same time I got the news from the insurance company, the therapist and I had agreed, I had come along way and we could use some space between us.
So, I’m dealing with the dual whammy of losing my Uncle Peter as well as prepping to deal with my family. I knew Peter’s passing was coming, but what has me most in a tizzy is the fact that I have to face at least the one of my sisters at the service to say goodbye to him. I have chatted with several friends about this (Thank you Clarabelle!) but mostly what I’ve done is cook.
I got up early Saturday morning and headed down to the market, where I proceeded to purchase no less than 40 pounds of tomatoes. It’s been unbearably muggy here, but I have had all four burners of my stove cranking with pots of boiling water since 10:30 Saturday morning. I have canned at least 30 pints of local organic tomatoes, I am working on turning I don’t know how many pounds of them into concentrate via my crockpot, I’ve got a pot of gumbo simmering as I type this, as well as several loaves of sourdough baguettes in the oven (Thanks to Leni for giving me the starter). I did a batch of green bean pickles earlier today and I’ve been catching up on laundry for the first time since we got home from the beach. Somehow, sand is still EVERYWHERE.
I know the typical response to hearing about a death in the family is “I’m sorry for your loss”. Ever since my father passed away when I was 19, I have come to hate that phrase. It just feels false. I hate it. Please don’t use that phrase when you leave comments and email me. I’m not just dealing with the loss of my uncle – which I knew was coming – he had taken himself off of dialysis last winter, so really, the fact that he lasted as long as he did is something – but I’m girding up to deal with having to be in the same room as my family. The family that lives for drama and will stop at nothing to cause a scene. I’ve already made arrangements for Edie to be elsewhere because I will minimize the damage they do to her. Peter always held out hope for reconciliation between myself and my mother and siblings – thanks to the same website that told me about his passing, I’ve learned that my most unstable and nastiest sister has jumped in to ‘be there’ for one of my cousins.
The most meaningful family relationships I have, besides my Aunt Jenny, has been with my cousins. What I don’t have with my siblings, I have with my cousins. I want to say goodbye to my Uncle Peter, but I also want to be there for my cousin John, whom I have a very deep soft spot for. We know what it’s like to lose a parent way too early, we know what it’s like to have difficult relationships with our siblings.
So, I really just need to pull up my big girl pants and get through it. I went off on a tangent last night in bed to Pat about well, everything. How I’m terrified about dealing with my family, that it could set me back years, that I’m slightly pissed at Uncle Peter for expecting me to deal with it but at the same time, I know he, nor any other of my extended family members really should have to be in the middle of the whole mess, but you know what? I’m so incredibly grateful that I do have all that extended family in the middle of the it all that let me know they are there for me, unquestionably, always.
So, I’m going to try to get through the next week. For their sakes.