Sunday, February 1, 2015

What I Wish I’d Said, Part One

As much as I love to write, I hate to speak. Put another way, I hate speaking even more than I love writing. And that’s saying something.

Looking for someone to raise her hand in a business meeting? Look away from me. Words of wisdom? Well, there’s a book I can recommend. And anything close to my deepest feelings? Um. Can I get back to you on that?

I don’t have the gift. The moment passes. Hours later, though – usually between two and three in the morning – I have absolute clarity. In the quiet, in the dark, when it's far too late, and I should be sleeping – it comes to me: What I should have said.

A few weeks ago, I was with my mom and siblings to celebrate the life of Mom's husband, Bob, who died a year ago. It was a brilliant idea, really. After the angst and difficulty and mourning of the year, we gathered to share favorite memories of the man who’d made such a powerful imprint on our lives. I reveled in everyone else’s stories – in hearing the tried and the true and the ones I’d somehow forgotten. But then, my sister says, “Cheri, tell us your favorite memory.” 

So I said -- nothing.

I froze. Rock hard, sub-zero, re-route traffic, school’s closed, the water main's busted, Kelsius zero. While everyone else was thoughtful and emotional and generous with their memories, everything that came to my mind sounded trite and trivial and silly. I had nothing meaningful to contribute. Nothing at all. 

But then it came to me. About eight hours too late.

Somewhere between two and three in the morning, it came to me. My favorite memory of Bob – what I loved most about him – was the way he loved Mom.  He loved her inside and out. He loved her “because,” and he loved her “regardless.” When I think back over their nearly 30 year marriage, I have to admit that there were times when their relationship was maddening. They did everything together. Everything. They worked together. They shopped together. They thought together. They decided together. They cooked together. They ate together. They prayed together.Ask either one of them a question – even the simplest of questions – and the answer was predictable: Let’s talk with your Mama. Let me talk to Uncle Bob.

He doted on her and adored her. It was obvious that Bob saw my mom the way I did -- as the most brilliant, beautiful, capable person on the planet. His Christmas and birthday gifts to her were always over the top, but nothing was more extravagant than the love he demonstrated, day in and day out. He was mindful of the little things that often get brushed away and overlooked in longterm relationships. He really cared. He cared about Mom. He cared about her feelings. He cared about her kids.

Uncle Bob set the bar high. As we all watched, he demonstrated how to put someone else -- my mom -- first. He loved my mom – in an extraordinary, exceptional, life-altering kind of way. He showed me what it was to love -- and to be loved. He showed me what was possible in a relationship. He helped me figure out what I wanted in my own relationship.

I wish I’d said that.

Best Ever Pimento Cheese Spread
To celebrate Bob's life, we also indulged in some of his favorite foods: roasted oysters, egg salad sandwiches, shrimp, cream cheese and olive sandwiches, spanish peanuts, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, blue cheese dip, and pimento cheese. When I was growing up in Charleston, pimento cheese (or, as some folks pronounced it, "minner" cheese) sandwiches were served at receptions of every sort -- all fancy, on white bread with the crusts cut off.  In fact, Bob often said that if egg salad sandwiches and pimento cheese sandwiches hadn't been served at your reception, then you weren't actually married at all.

6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons grated onion (optional)
10 oz. extra sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated (do not use pre-grated)
4 oz. canned pimentos, chopped

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except cheese and pimentos.  Gradually stir in cheese and pimentos until well combined and moistened.  Chill for an hour or two, and use as a dip for celery sticks or a spread on sandwiches or crackers.
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