By Gina Ficociello
Losing a parent is never easy.
We miss their guidance and support, their unconditional love. Maybe it’s a painful nostalgia, missing our youth and innocence as we see our parents’ age and leave us, we become the parents, the grandparents, and move further from our childhood. Even for those who had a less than Rockwellian childhood, it’s the idea of the innocence and purity that we miss.
As I get older, I see more and more of my friends say their final good byes to their moms and dads.
This year as I was preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, I found myself really missing my dad. At the grocery store, I wanted to buy his favorite foods; apricot and plums for the fruit dish, and caramel candies with the bull’s eye center. This is my first year without him and it’s so bittersweet when thoughts come to me. I guess I am thankful for the time with him and the memories, but it makes me sad nonetheless.
We have a big family so we started getting together on the holidays for breakfast when everyone was able to gather then scattering to spend the rest of the day with our spouses’ families.
Over the years, we gravitated back to dinner, so I do both. I love the day set aside for just enjoying family, eating, sleeping and playing games. I make a full breakfast with fruit dishes, pancakes, potatoes and whatever else sounds fun to add. Dinner is the traditional stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry, salad, rolls and turkey. It’s always a little gross doing the turkey being vegetarian, so was thankful for my boyfriend taking that task this year.
For Thanksgiving, I host breakfast and dinner. With so much to do, I like to do as much prep as I can the night before. This year was so different knowing I would be feeding 4-6 people versus 18-20, but still a lot to do. I started with the stuffing, gathering a couple different types of bread to tear up and toast, grating veggies and sautéing garlic.
My dad was an amazing gardener and taught me everything I know about gardening. Some of my favorite memories are of helping him in the garden—learning the right way to sucker tomatoes, fertilize and water; each plant needing something different. One year I went to the farmers market with him and he sold some tomatoes. I never got tired of hearing him telling people, “these aren’t shipped in on a big truck, I grew these myself. You can taste the sunshine.”
He loved his tomatoes, but recently added a garlic specialty to his garden. My sister took him to a garlic fest and he picked out a couple different kinds that he liked. He grew them and gave us each a couple heads to grow on our own. My yard is too shady, so my boyfriend was gifted some garlic to grow in his. They did amazing and came out big and firm and so full of flavor.
So as I start to cook, I am thinking about my dad and how strange it is to not have him sitting at the head of the table, telling stories and then falling asleep in his chair. Wondering how it will feel eating at the kitchen table instead of having the two big fold out tables with everyone gathered around.
My boyfriend brings me the garlic. “You know this is your dad’s garlic?” and the tears come.
I just don’t fight it anymore. “If you want to save some of the best cloves we can grow some too and keep the tradition?” I nod my head, at a loss for words. Dinner was great—probably my best stuffing ever.
I know that the beauty of a parent passing can be seen in how they live on through us in our traditions, our stories, the generational knowledge we have that we pass on to our own children. This is true with anyone that shapes our lives, whether it’s a parent or a child, sibling or friend. They imprint something magical by sharing their traditions, stories and special ways of doing things that we pick up and carry on. In that way, they will always be with us and life is eternal.
Gina Ficociello is a budding writer living in Amherst, Ohio with her two teenage daughters, Josie and Julia, and adorable dog, Yoshi. Growing up on a farm gives her a unique perspective derived from love of nature. She’s the kind of girl that would sit out all night just to watch the moon glow and then sleep outside of the tent to watch the sunrise.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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