A couple of nights this week, I had the pleasure of making dinner for a lovely gentleman named Wally. My mom personal chefs for Wally and his old friend Frances. When my mom and my dad went away for their anniversary this week, I offered to stand in as a cook.
Wally is eighty-six years old. He lost his wife, Claire, just three weeks ago. Though dinner is usually served in the dining room, Frances decided to rest that night, and Wally asked if he could eat dinner in the kitchen with me for company. It’s a funny and typical part of being human that each of us tends to feel our own suffering most acutely. I am intensely sad for Wally’s loss; I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a person that you’ve loved nearly all your life and shared and grown with. But I also couldn’t help feeling just a little envious. Sixty-one years. How can you know, when you look at some one, with all the thrill and ignorance of youth, that you want to be beside them for the next sixty-one years, and more if you could have it?
But it’s easy to ask that after the fact. He told me, “I asked her to marry me for four years before she finally said yes; she had a wartime divorce and she wanted nothing to do with it.” And even when you do find people and places and things to occupy time that make you happy, it’s a rare happiness that doesn’t engender some sadness. He said, “If she had married me the first time I asked, we would’ve celebrated our sixty-fifth.”
I find it both comforting and disappointing to be reminded that there is no getting out of some suffering in this life. I neither want to deny sadness nor grow more out of self-pity. I want to be with life the way it is, and uplift it where I can. If I’m being honest, I am shaky on my feet right now. From relationship and career changes, from loss of community and the uncertainty of youth. These things happen. But as Stanley Kubrick said, “However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
For Wally, there is finding consolation in the company of others and a small cake made with love. For me, there is the beauty of objects and the hope that I may be of comfort to others when I can.
Recipe after the jump… Continue reading