Thursday, July 16, 2009

Making Jam and Missing my Dad

Missing dead people is really different than I thought it was going to be.

The emotion isn't linear or rational or predictable. It is a sadness that sneaks up on you in totally unexpected and unanticipated ways. It approaches you from behind and knocks you down. Like when you are eating raspberry jam.

June 23rd marked one year since my Dad died. Strangely, the one-year anniversary wasn't particularly sad for me. On my birthday, I listened to a voice message from him that I saved from my birthday last year and even that didn't bring on the waterworks like I thought it would.

But when I walked out of the Tribune Building a few weeks ago with a contract in my hand, I thought, "He would love this." And that brought on a bad case of missing my Dad.

Yesterday I made raspberry jam. And out of no where the missing feeling appeared -- not because my Dad like jam or anything like that. In fact, I don't think he even ate jam or jelly.

The connection is a little bit attenuated so you'll have to follow along.

My Dad used to work with this woman named Phyllis. They were friends -- unlikely friends in many ways -- but they were real friends. Each December, they would go out to lunch to celebrate their birthdays and then Phyllis would help my Dad pick out a Christmas present for my Mom.

At my Dad's wake, I remember seeing Phyllis and thinking how devastated she seemed over the whole thing. She was going to miss him -- you could just see it.

I don't really know Phyllis that well -- but oh, do I know her jam. Each Christmas, she would send my Dad home with a bog box of homemade goodies, including these incredibly chocolatey brownies and jars of homemade raspberry jam.

I loved this jam. I would eat it on buttery toast. Or spread on a crumpet. Or just on a spoon. We would usually run out by late February and that was always a bummer.

When my Dad died, I wondered if she would still give us boxes of jam and brownies for Christmas. She did.

I run into Phyllis a few times each summer on Wednesday mornings at the Green City Market. She is usually hauling around entire flats of berries. She makes a lot of jam.

I don't think that Phyllis is particularly thrilled to see me coming at her on market mornings but I understand. She politely asks how my Mom is doing. I always want to ask her if she will keep making jam for my family, but I don't. She misses him too -- I can just tell.

Yesterday I bought raspberries from the market and spent the afternoon making jam and missing my Dad. It was sad -- but not in an entirely bad way.

I ate my homemade jam on a buttery English muffin this morning. I imagined Phyllis saying, "You got it just right. This is just like my jam."

I am going to make more.


Serena said...

It was 4 years on June 29th for me--I get it. Memories of dad come out of the strangest places at the strangest times.

Luka is evidentially my dad at the toddler stage--in looks and in mannerisms--cheeky, stubborn, bad tempered but cute as all heck...his great grandmother got such a kick out of him when we saw her a few weeks ago--she is 97 and my dad is the only child she has lost out of her 6. But she knew his spirit was alive and well.

They may not be "here" but they are looking out for us--and I suspect that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh, you got me. I know just what you mean, even with my Dad still around there is nothing like knowing he would be proud of something...

This was beautiful.


Meghan Murray said...

This was really beautiful Cate...I will send it to Bobo as I am not sure he keeps up with his bloggin' sisters good work:)

Megan Murray said...

well now you made me cry, but it's a very sweet blog.

The Hen said...

Thanks for all of the nice comments. Let me know if you all in interested in some raspberry jam . . . . just made four more jars!

Bethany said...

I wish I knew something better to say other than beautiful piece, Caitlin... Phyllis would be proud of your jam and touched by your memory and your dad would surely be proud of your writing talents.