Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Cooking and grief, revisited

Some of you may remember that I forgot how to cook when Kevin died. It took me about a year to be able to make anything that required any thought, and longer still to become at all interested in cooking. It remained a pretty spotty proposition for a long time. I had no interest in cooking anything that required much thought for years. Once I was involved with Charley, I had a little more interest but no drive to cook anything beyond simple dishes. When I tried something other than the very tired and true. I was liable to make mistakes. Charley, in his loving and kind way, never complained and said that everything tasted fine, but I knew.

I still don't cook the way I used to and I may never do so again, but this morning I realized I am interested in cooking again. I am interested in trying new recipes that take some time and thought. I am interested in planning meals and seeing what might happen. I miss being an enthusiastic and skilled cook, but I'm no longer indifferent or easily worn out by the tasks associated with cooking.

This is a big deal. Kevin had a gastric cancer so his ability to eat was quickly impacted by his illness. My cooking changed from focusing on delicious to figuring out how I could pack more calories into a broth. He couldn't taste well, thus flavor had little to do with it. Once he died, the trauma of his illness remained in my ability to cook. Initially I wasn't interested, and then I found trying anything new felt like a violation of his memory. Even once I was involved with Charley, I needed to cook simply because trying much new brought back so many memories of cooking for Kevin. If I made something Kevin never ate, it had a bitterness to it because I wanted to share it with him, even as I delighted in sharing it with Charley. I also lost my touch, and my seasonings were off, especially salt. I couldn't taste it clearly anymore.

It's been almost eight years now, and I cook almost every day. This morning I realized I have regained some of my relish (get it?) for new recipes, new techniques, and deliciousness. I cans eason things well again, and only rarely mess up the salt. It hit me like a pie in the face, a combination of sweetness and pain.

That's how it is with loss and love these many years later. I still carry the grief and pain. The good memories are finally almost as strong as the hard ones, but there are ways that those hard emotions feel like the most tangible connection to the man I loved who died. When I hit an emotional milestone, like realizing I enjoy cooking again almost the way I used to, it feels bittersweet. It is a sign I am healing and it is also a reminder that he has been gone for a long time. 

I don't have a good conclusion to this writing, other than the reminder that grief is the price of love. I am blessed that I loved and was loved by Kevin so well. I am grateful for the grief that reminds me of the love. And I am just as blessed, just as lucky, to love and be loved by Charley. How lucky I am that when I cook, I am cooking for living, the dead, and myself. How lucky I am that I finally remembered how.


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