It was Sunday and we were having lasagna, food a friend cooked for us, something others often do when you lose a loved one. It was then that I did it.
I reached into my pantry and pulled out the bottle. And I drizzled a liberal portion of truffle oil atop my serving of this delicious Italian dish.
This is what I will do now: I will use my truffle oil.
To me, it is a prized purchase, something I bought at a 17th century winery during our trip to Italy years back. For those who aren’t familiar, truffle oil is enhanced with the flavors of rare mushrooms; it is considered a culinary delight. This particular oil is infused with the essence of white truffles, found sparingly in the hills of northern Italy. Delicate and rich, it is thought to enhance a dish’s natural flavor.
The mushrooms themselves sell for thousands of dollars per pound. And while I can’t imagine paying that, I did manage to pay $50 for this bottle of oil (a splurge!). And you know what that means, don’t you? It means I have used it rarely, sparingly. I have been saving this oil for special meals, special occasions.
2014 has brought its full share of sadness for my family. My mother struggled with her illness (pulmonary arterial hypertension). We made many an emergency run to the hospital. My father, who has Parkinson’s, has been plagued with worry and stress-induced confusion. And in the midst of all that, my brother had a stroke, and later carotid surgery. As for me, I’ve been walking in a fear-filled fog for weeks, dominated by worries over how to best care for my family members. Not to mention my struggles to cope with all that was going on along with maintaining my normal life.
And now, my mother is gone. My father has moved into a facility where he can be properly cared for. And my brother is out of the hospital with a new lease on life.
Everything has changed.
Am I Grieving? Yes.
Am I Raw? Yes.
Am I Hopeless? No.
Truth be told, I think I still may be in shock. But I am coping. I am leaning on my faith and really, really don’t understand how those without faith get through. The events of the past three months have certainly changed me (how could I not be different?).
So last night, I did it again.
The menu? Stir-fry. Not an Italian dish, but who cares. Slowly and carefully I drizzled my precious oil over brown rice, vegetables and pork. It tasted good. It felt…liberating.
No longer will I wait. No longer am I going to hesitate to try new things, live life fully, go after what I want. I guess it takes getting through a storm to truly realize just how quickly the landscape can change. Life is short. I will use my truffle oil.
But even I know using an expensive oil isn’t going to alter my circumstances. The bottle will eventually run dry. I may buy another, and I may not. Either way my mother will still be gone. My father will be in a facility. My heart will still have a gaping hole.
This leaves me with a choice. Lie in my pool of grief (and I may do this for a while) or move forward, learn to accept my new circumstances. For me, the oil is simply a declaration of my choice. I choose to relish the good. To move forward despite my pain. To live with abandon.
I will try to fill this gap in my heart. I will celebrate sunny days, spring flowers, small victories in my writing and time with my family. I will fill that hole with all my wonderful memories of my mother and father. Good memories from when they were both at their best, not these last years when their bodies and minds betrayed them.
It’s what my mom would want me to do, it’s how she lived her life. Unlike most from her generation, my mother had a bold streak. She graduated college in three years. She went on to get her masters degree and became a college professor, facing a good amount of sexism along the way. She was extremely independent, lively, feisty. Never did she hesitate to go after what she wanted (something I excel at). And she encouraged others to do the same. Often, when I would contemplate (hem-haw?) about doing something for myself, she’d always say, “I think you should do it.”
This week I’ve been going through old photos, putting together a video for the funeral. It’s been…therapeutic. The light in her eyes, this is something I will never forget. And in these old pictures, I see it. My mom holding her babies. My mom traveling to Stratford-upon-Avon with her own mother, checking out Shakespeare’s old haunts. My mom on the ski slopes of Vermont with my dad and their oldest friends. Her eyes simply danced when she was excited.
I know without a doubt, cook that she was, my mom would have never hesitated to use her truffle oil. And I will follow in her footsteps. Cheers, mom.