It’s been many, many weeks since last I blogged. I’ve been writing a LOT. About celebration foods, and funeral foods, and agriculture, and meat wrapped in cellophane. I’m having a blast with this book, learning things and getting excited about sharing all of this with others. I have a terrific mentor who is encouraging and supportive. I have a family who still mostly tolerates me. And I have probably the most remarkable group of friends anyone could ask for.
I started thinking about this last part recently, as I’m running back and forth to another city to visit with one of my oldest friends (literally) and his family as he faces some significant health issues. He’s 91 – a brilliant chemist, professor emeritus and all round great guy. He and his wife took me under their wings many years ago when I was a student at Queen’s. I was broke. I was always broke. They let me freeload off of them several times, and in so doing they changed who I am fundamentally.
It wasn’t just that they fed me and gave me a roof over my head. They made my imposition on them seem like I was doing THEM a favour. They welcomed me with no judgment, only warmth and kindness that I have spent my life since trying to emulate. The missus in this equation was an uber homemaker. The kind of woman who embraced her role and made a formidable career out of it. While I stayed with them, no item of clothing went un-ironed, no button left un-sewed. She even ironed her sheets, for goodness’ sake. She was instrumental in helping me form my ideas of what feminism really was/is, and led me down the path of choice. Always. Choice. She was smart and savvy and could probably have done whatever the hell she wanted – but she chose a life of domestic bliss with the love of her life. When I complained recently about the y chromosomes in my life neglecting to wipe down the stove, she said, “I’ve learned lately that it really doesn’t matter.”
And could this woman cook! I told her just the other day that I felt nourished, not just my poor, neglected, student-diet body, but my soul and heart were nourished by her food and the care that she put into its creation. She made her own condiments, her own bread, and dinner was served in the dining room every night, family style. The Dr. would serve the meat, and she would serve up the veg. Wine was drunk, laughter was laughed. I was even given a napkin ring to use while I was an official freeloader. I felt like I belonged. To this day, it feels like coming home to walk in to that house with its lavender-tiled bathroom and massive, peaceful back yard.
Update: Dr. R. left us last weekend. This Saturday we’ll celebrate his life and what he meant to each of us. What I’ll remember is his humility and kindness. When he spoke to you, you were the only person in the room. He was probably smarter than every single person he ever encountered, but he would never, ever! have made anyone feel that way. If the world was comprised of only Dr. R’s, it would be the loveliest, gentlest, kindest place, filled with good humour and overwhelming generosity. Rest in peace, my dear friend.