My father was always a mysterious man. A man of not so many words. Like me, he uses sarcasm and humour to cope with almost any emotion, if he dares show it. He is hard to read and more often than not it is like pulling teeth trying to carry on a conversation with him. The only way I can attempt to describe his demeanour is that he often just seems numb to the world. This may be due to a whole lot of therapeutic Mary Jane (my dad was an "au naturale" hemp loving hippie-can I even say this on the internet? Oh well I just did). It may also be that he has just been through so many exhausting moments that they slowly ate away at his energy for life, one event at a time. During my teenage years, we drifted drastically. I tended to engulf myself into my own selfish life and paid no attention to my separated parents and their significant others they collected along the way. I lived with my mother until I moved out and rarely made an effort to connect with my father. My younger brother was always the one who guilt tripped me into visiting. I will forever thank him for that.
You may be aware that my younger brother, Corey, passed away at age 19 due to an aggressive cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. I was 21 at the time. My brother had been living with my father and was an out-patient where regular visits to Cancer Care were made in order for him to receive his treatments. Corey passed away in his sleep. It was my father who realized that his youngest child was not going to wake up. This was a gloomy Sunday afternoon. I was working at Reitman’s (the clothing store) at the time while I finished my Massage Therapy course. I remember my co-worker handing me the phone claiming it was for me. She carried this dazed and confused expression on her face. I soon knew why. It was my mother however I had no idea for the first couple of minutes as she was bawling hysterically. I thought it was a prank call and assumed the caller was laughing uncontrollably. I finally made out the words. “He’s dead. He died.” My immediate reactions were something I will never forget. Shock is truly traumatizing. I made it to a chair before I fainted and somehow dragged my heavy as lead feet to the backroom where every orifice in my body excreted everything that I had inside of me. As soon as I snapped out of my physical shock, I remember thinking about my dad. How on earth must he feel? As distanced as I had felt from him, I couldn’t shake the fact that he had gone through such a haunting trauma, and all alone. Since then, his numbness has a stronger presence than ever before.
The dazed and lifeless emotions I can relate to as that was also my primary and long lasting reaction to the loss of my brother. I have written about this in my “The Grief of Grieving” post here. Having gone through my episode, I feel I can better understand my father and connect with him in ways that would go unnoticed to anyone else. Although we are nowhere close to that father daughter relationship that exists in movies, progress has been made. My wedding day was perfect and one of my favourite moments was our father daughter dance where he actually expressed love in the form of communication. Like, using words-what? Ground breaking I tell ya-and shit did that ever get me right in the feels. As the years go by, I am starting to see a lot of my father in myself. The love of food is the most prominently shared characteristic.
My dad was always the cook and the baker growing up (when my parents were together). My mother only knew how to make a “meal” involving Kraft Dinner that we called “dog food.” My father made everything from scratch, planted the most exquisite garden every year, and all I did was jack his cookie dough and carrots. He canned, he made pies and jams with his fresh berries and rhubarb from the backyard and I couldn’t have cared less….until now. That is how I stay connected with him. Dinners, strawberry picking, and anything else involving food. Conversations about food seem to carry on effortlessly and of course, that is one topic where I could chat about all day. Although his meals and treats are far from “healthy,” they are made from scratch and made with love. And that in my opinion is the best way to eat.
Every year he prepares batches of jam and gives them out to loved ones. His jam is and always will be the best. But it also has a shit ton of sugar and added preservatives that in my opinion, are just unnecessary. We save “dad’s jam stash” for special occasions and enjoy my hell-bent on health version instead. It has no added sugars and absolutely no preservatives (you could add lemon juice to keep it fresher for an extra couple of days). I have never made “real” jam but it sounds like a lengthy process. My jam will take you about 10 minutes max-plus it has chia seeds and it’s awesome (but not better than my dad’s).
Strawberry Chia Jam
*Makes ~1 cup serving
- 1 cup frozen fruit of your choice (in this case, strawberries)
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 4 drops of liquid stevia or ½ packet of powdered stevia (or to taste)
- Soften the fruit in a skillet over medium heat.
- Once softened, turn the heat off and mash the fruit with a fork. Leave some chunks if you desire.
- Add the water (use less if you prefer thicker spreads), chia seeds, and stevia and stir together.
- Remove from heat to let set.
- Enjoy right away or store in a glass jar in the fridge (and use within 7 days).
What characteristics of your parents have you noticed in yourself? How has it changed your relationships with them?