A story for Father’s Day about spare ribs, last words, and the key to happiness.
During his last few weeks with us, my dad couldn’t stop talking about food. He would rattle off a list of things he used to love to eat. Cheese, beets, pickled eggs (yech), delicious meals my mom used to make, cheese, cheese. I think he did it because he hated the hospital food he was being given, which in my estimation wasn’t half bad, and because he missed having my mom cook for him. Or maybe it was because he missed having my mom care for him. Either way, he reminisced about food frequently near the end.
He was especially obsessed with talking about fried rice and spare ribs. Specifically, fried rice and spare ribs with extra sauce from Jade Palace, a Chinese restaurant we often went to as a family. He would drop not-so-subtle hints about how much he’d appreciate having those dishes one last time knowing full well this wouldn’t happen without the complete cooperation of my brother and I. What do you do then for a dying man? You get him his damn fried rice and ribs. that’s what you do. If only to make him shut up about it.
My brother ended up being The Transporter of the goods. In my defence, I also brought my dad food while he was in palliative care. My delivery consisted of a selection of cheeses he had been raving about. Mmmm, Oka. When the delivery had been made my brother sent me a text that went something like this:
“You’ve never seen anyone enjoy spare ribs so much in your life.”
There you have it, folks. The key to happiness is spare ribs. The End.
Aside from his musings on the joys of eating, my father also turned into somewhat of a philosopher near the end, not unlike Marcus Aurelius who’s words we had written on the bookmarks we gave out at his memorial. He would spew out surprising tidbits of wisdom without warning, things I quickly learned to write down in my notebook or on a random piece of nearby paper so I wouldn’t forget them.
Some of the highlights include:
On life: Always have a Plan B.
On courage: Have fear, but don’t be fearful.
On cheese: Gouda doesn’t do a damn thing for me.
On gratitude/perspective: His mother used to use Redpath sugar bags as pillowcases.
On the last day that we were able to speak with him, he uttered the words, “I love pickles.”
I laughed at the simplicity of the comment. Of all the things he could have said, he chose to comment on his appreciation of pickled food. I responded, “Dad! Those can’t be your last words. You gotta give us something else.”
But did he need to? The phrase, “I love pickles” is as good as any I would argue. Life is about appreciating the little things.
My dad’s most profound statement came one evening while I was sitting alone with him in his hospital room.
“Everyone has a final act; this is mine. I hope they applaud.”
(They did, Dad. Happy Father’s Day. Love, K.)
“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you.
While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”
― Marcus Aurelius