Monday, August 24, 2015

Lamb Fries and Bittersweet Goodbyes 

Fourth of July weekend I took my 15 year old son to San Jose to see my Dad in the Nursing Home where he lived. My father Darrel managed to sit up in his wheelchair two days in a row, frail, hooked to the ventilator, unable to speak but able to write. We had two good days and the last day before home he was sick and so we sat by his bed in that hot little room holding hands and saying everything we had to say, knowing it was the last time we would see each other. On July 23rd my Father passed away from a severe infection. 

I heard someplace that grief is just love squaring off against its lifelong enemy which is death. And love is always up to the job. The rituals of life and death and love always involve food. All my Dads friends had a big party at Smittys bar in Sausalito where he had worked most of his adult life as a bartender. Lots of stories and laughter and tears like a family reunion. And tables and tables of food. All were welcome, even a scruffy little skateboarder hanging outside the bar got fed and more food sent home with him. My husband Larry and son Conor and I were not able to go. But we decided to have our own walk down memory lane and celebrate by going to all of my dads favorite places he loved when he'd come to visit.  SO we started our own food tour.

First stop was a Friday night at La Catrina a great Mexican Place where we had Beans and rice, tacos and enchiladas, tamales, Jalapeno relish, handmade flour tortillas and Mexican Coke.  Once we took my Dad to a brand new hipster  mexican fusion place on one visit. That night after we got home Conor who was a little guy, threw up EVERYTHING he had eaten in his bed and on himself. Larry cleaned the bed up and as Dad held him under the armpits dangled over the tub and I sprayed him off with the shower attachent my Dad says, "Mmmhmm thats why I always stick with the peasant food. You know what I mean, beans, rice, tamales... That fancy mexican
stuff you can keep it. I want a plate of south side workin mans mexican food. I mean the kind where you point to the menu cause you dont know how to say it."

The next Sunday we got up early and went to The Classen Grill. It was fried eggs, home fries, biscuits and gravy and chicken fried steak. My Dad swore he could not get a decent Chicken Fried Steak except here. We actually lived for a long time really close to this place, within walking distance. My Dad loved having his own time with Conor so when he'd visit we would go to work and leave the two of them home. One morning they went for there for breakfast and for lunch too. When they got back Dad got locked out, the alarm was going off, the police came, and somehow between him and four year old Conor they convinced the alarm company and the police they were not burglarizing the house just trying to get in for nap time. Dad told Conor, "We don't need to tell your folks about all this OK? Especially going to Classen Grill twice in one day. Your Mom will yell at me about eating fried stuff all day." Conor didnt tell. He didn't tell until that morning when we were having our food tour breakfast.
That kid keeps a secret better than his ole mom ever could.

On Monday it was Bedlam Barbecue where we had ribs, cowboy beans, potato salad, and laughing. We laughed about how every time we came something happened like one time the woodsmoke was so strong even the Iced Tea tasted like it. Dad said they did have BBQ in California but you had to drive all the way to Oakland, not only was it an hour away, you might get mugged on your way in the door. Not like here where you had BBQ all over town and even the tea was smoky, not that he was complaining mind you, he'd never gripe about BBQ.

Always on my Dads last night in town we would got to Cattlemens Cafe in Cowtown. For 14 years we always sat in a booth, we always had the same waiter a dark haired man named Jon, and Dad always told Conor "Did you know George Bush ate here?, to which Conor would always reply, "Yep Papa D you tell me every time."
Jon would come to the table and say "Welcome back Mr. Papka, would you like to start with lamb fries?" 
From the time Conor could chew he always split a plate of them with his Papa D. So we had to have those. Our last hurrah to my Dad, the only person we ever ate those with, and I'm crying as I write this. Because we can eat them again, but it will never be the same.... 

Last time in OKC with Papa D 2011


  1. Beautifully written, Suz. My heart is with you and your family. <3

  2. Such wonderful memories! Just cry. It'll help eventually. *hugs*

  3. Your dad tried hard to make up for the lost time. I think you and your family made his life so much more real for him. Not one time when I knew him did he fish. I am glad he started doing that. He did hunt Pheasant and he was good at that. God bless you and God bless us all.