1 family. friendly food. » Half-a-Banana Man (An essay: Part 2)

(Part 1 here.)

I think about him when I drink a cold beer in a tall, sweaty glass, or straight from a chilled bottle. That’s the way to drink beer, right? Well, he preferred his beer at room temperature; never ever cold. And he sure loved to drink beer. (Taking a sip from his bottle of beer on Grandma’s porch is one of my earliest memories of him.) At the modest, one-bedroom, rented house where he lived he always had a case of beer, usually Heineken, waiting by the sliding door leading to the patio. He would sit outside for hours, taking his time, as if the world were standing still, slowly drinking his beer, slowly smoking a cigarette. But usually, he’d be sitting with a friend, or having a conversation on the phone, offering the listener a piece of his long lectures and lessons in life.

He behaved the same way when he visited us, spending hours and hours outside in the backyard patio by himself talking on the phone with his friends, entering the house every now and then to get another bottle of beer, or a cup of cheap wine. I watched him through my kitchen window.

We got a bit closer after I became a mother seven years ago. I didn’t need a father by the age of thirty and I learned that our relationship worked best as long as I didn’t expect him to act fatherly but I wanted my children to have a grandfather. (Unfortunately, he didn’t have a chance to be a grandfather for my daughter—they only met once—but had enough opportunities to spend time with his grandson.)

He was very helpful, patient, and supportive after the birth of my first child. He came for a visit and changed diapers, gave the baby baths, lay on the floor and amused his newborn grandson with toys, conversations, jokes, and songs. He bought a guitar and played it for him. He cooked us eggs poached in tomato sauce, also known as Shakshuka, when we were too busy and worn out from handling the baby. Alas, he burned most of it. We joked about it and after that; I always teased him about his special talent for burning food or cooking it to death. He never used recipes or peeked into a cookbook. Always the improviser, he teased me about my vast cookbook collection.

My son remembers the ice cream his Grandpa David—this is how I called him—bought him once at the mall. I sent them away together and suggested that he pamper his grandson with ice cream. That was the only time I saw my father (who rarely ate ice cream because of his aversion to cold foods and drinks) eat ice cream. He got himslef a chocolate ice cream and a dreadfully blue-colored one for my boy. I found them sitting together on a butterfly-shaped bench, melting in the sun, licking their cones.

Another time, I suggested he buy his grandson one of the gigantic, multi-colored lollipops that kids get all excited about.

“What for? He won’t be able to finish it anyway.” My father didn’t get it.

“Trust me. He will love it! And love you forever. . .” I urged.

He argued, but then complied.

Now, every time we pass a candy store and my son spots the huge, rainbow-colored lollipops that no kid was ever able to finish—or so I assume—he talks about the time when Grandpa David brought him one.

And every Friday, when we have dinner–we light candles, drink wine, and I bake a cake—my son, his grandson, lights a candle in Grandpa David’s memory—a pink votive in the shape of a heart which I originally bought with Valentine’s Day in mind. The heart-shaped votive reminds me of the heart-shaped vanilla cookies I baked for my father when he stayed at the hospital for the first round of treatment, radiation, and chemotherapy.

(Part 3 here.)

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