I tried the year in review app on Facebook this morning just to see what photos would appear. To my FB friends and family, no worries, I won’t be sharing. After 12 years of cancer tugging at us, directing us, cajoling our decisions, and inserting chaos that most don’t ever have to deal with for that duration, Nasir passed on October 28th.
We have just had our first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without his smile, calmness, and love. The pervasive sadness and grief felt among our children and myself has permeated most of the holidays. The subtle family traditions I wasn’t even aware of have been everywhere.
“Mom, what are we going to have for breakfast on Christmas morning, Dad always made his frittata?” “Should we hang Dad’s stocking?” “Is Santa coming this year?” – wink, wink. Mexican wedding cakes, pecan tarts and fudge – all of his favorites that we made each year. The Thai food – his favorite shared with my brother’s family on Christmas eve. The gift bags from last year with his name – either to him or from him. His gentle reminders of the Muslim holiday traditions and focus on acceptance of all beliefs, as we celebrated one of the biggest Christian holidays. His love of food, family and friends, and most of all Us.
Yes, this holiday is also marked with memories of him in the hospital. One Christmas day because of an infection. Another because of side effects from chemotherapy. Another Christmas day with him home but on 100 mg of daily prednisone to calm the graft versus host disease from his transplant. And, yet, another, with him too weak to do much of anything but sit quietly in his chair in pain from the infections in the bones in both legs.
Our children are brave. Society talks about the “fight” against cancer. The warrior, hero, survivor in those that “battle” the disease. Aggressive words. Each one of them conjuring feelings of control filling our human pysche with a feeling of power. Truth is, with cancer, there is much chaos making the family in the “fight” feel powerless.
I found myself rummaging through our cookbooks for a remotely similar frittata recipe. Frustrated at myself for not keeping better track of things, oh, so many things, I decided it was time to vett through the loose papers among my cookbooks. Amidst the chaos, the loose recipes, and old recipe books I hadn’t looked through in years, a single piece of paper fell to the floor. Neatly folded with very small writing I let it lie there while I continued to vett through the mess. He never wrote anything down. Rarely cooked, but always a frittata on Christmas morning. Why didn’t he write it down? Why didn’t I do it?
Finding a basic frittata recipe in Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything, I at least had a go to. Time to put it all back on the shelves. And there it was the piece of paper that had fallen to the floor a half an hour earlier. A Christmas present from Nasir.
Yesterday morning our daughter, his sous chef the past few years, made his recipe. We missed him terribly. We said grace, shared more memories, and enjoyed his gift of love – Nasir’s frittata – forever one of our family’s traditions.