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antipastoAntipasto. We used to have it at every holiday meal. A large (or maybe two) tray of a variety of meats, cheeses, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes that, as its name translates was served “before the meal”. Its origins are Italian but my dad, who enjoyed antipasto probably more than the meal itself, wasn’t. Irish as the inside of the Blarney Stone, although he had a smattering of mutt thrown in for good measure. I think he married into antipasto since my mom’s parents were both Italian and the holidays were clearly excuses to eat…a lot…especially of the things you only had but once or twice a year.

I can clearly remember the large glass trays that we used and the preparation. I bet every family has their own version. First, the layer of lettuce, then the layer of sliced tomato, then the layers of cheeses, provolone, some prosciutto, cappicola, some genoa salami, a sprinkling of pepperoncini, some cherry peppers, olives. There were additions but usually no deletions. The tray was piled high and hardly any of it was left over when the first course was through.We wouldn’t think of a holiday without it — I think my dad would have cried. I personally think it was his favorite part.

This afternoon, I was making up a shopping list for our Thanksgiving dinner. Nothing big — just our family and my sister and her family – as low stress and casual as Thanksgiving can get. I asked Tom who was sitting nearby if I was forgetting anything from the list and threw out an appetizer before dinner and then “antipasto?” It was like a blast from the past. I have not made an antipasto since my dad passed away. Why? I don’t really know, I’m sure that my boys would probably love it and enjoy it, but somehow it just wouldn’t be the same. Dad was the one that lived for the antipasto and I don’t know if it would be the same without him at the table to join us. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a subconscious sign of respect to recognize the fact that he no longer sits at the holiday table with us. I can’t seem to put my heart into it when he’s not here to enjoy it, considering it really was because of my dad that it was included with every holiday meal regardless of the occasion.

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Well, folks officially less than a week until Thanksgiving. We are headed toward the start of the “holiday season” fast and furiously. For me, let’s see – our house is torn apart, everything’s a disaster around here and I don’t think I have one single Thanksgiving dinner ingredient in my house yet. Full steam ahead! Bring it on. I’ve had a headache pretty much for the last week or so and nerves are frazzled. I can’t wait to have things back in order – or at least our normal sense of order.

Putting all that aside, we were reminiscing tonight about the holidays and memories. I asked our youngest son what he would like to have with turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, which sparked a conversation of holidays gone by. While some things endure through many generations, some traditions or foods slowly slip away from our table as the people with whom they are associated leave us. Why this happens I am not sure. I think that we sometimes take for granted certain aspects of our holidays because we take for granted the people behind them. We assume that the food, like the person will always be around.

For example, in my memories, my great Aunt Mary always showed up on holidays with literally a back seat full of pies – chocolate cream pie, lemon meringue pie, apple  pie and pumpkin pie. Pies that would make any baker shrink back in defeat. While we still make pie for dessert on certain holidays, none of our pies can hold a candle to Aunt Mary’s. The same thing with her stuffing – a mix of sausage, apple, onion  and seasonings – a combination that I, my sister and my brother have desperately attempted year after year to recreate and somehow always fall just short of Aunt Mary’s stuffing.

I realize that we have not had antipasto since my Dad passed away. We had antipasto for the appetizer for every major holiday for as far back as I can remember  and mostly since it was one of his favorites – huge platters piled high with Italian meats, cheese, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, hot cherry peppers, pepperocini and such. They are conspicuously absent from my holiday meals – intentionally or not – I couldn’t tell you, it just doesn’t seem right to have one of his favorite foods without him.

Tom reminisced about his grandmother’s dinners for holidays which always started with a homemade fruit salad. Pretty much the same thing – even if we tried to recreate it, it just wouldn’t be the same.

I know that the holidays are a natural time to remember. I hope that your reminiscing brings back as many good memories as ours did this evening.

Father’s Day….. a special day for a lot of special dads out there.

For my husband – He is the father of our three very wonderful sons and without him, well – they just wouldn’t be. He does a good, no a great job, being a dad and I am very happy to be sharing this journey called parenthood with him. I couldn’t imagine doing it alone, I am reminded of just how hard that is every time he goes away for any length of time. It has its great ups, when we’re so proud we feel like we’re going to burst and our bad lows when I wander around muttering to myself …. a lot. But I wouldn’t trade him or them for the world.

For my brother and brother-in-law – raising some really great kids (hey they’re related to me, they have to be great). And celebrating some pretty big milestones in their own families – for my brother-in-law a son graduating high school this coming week (boy, oh boy do I feel old) and a new baby for my brother (as well as a 2 year old birthday for his other daughter Happy Birthday Miss Emily!)

For my father-in-law, without him well I wouldn’t have my husband so I owe him a lot.

Among our friends, there are many that have turned into wonderful dads

This day, particularly this date is a bittersweet day. In 2001 this is the exact date that my dad passed away, suddenly and unexpected. The last day I spoke to him was also today, Father’s Day, but not the same date. I miss my dad a lot and wish that he were here often. I wonder what he would think of me, would he be proud – and happy that we have a nice life here in Vermont? I wish he could see what fine young men his three grandsons turned out to be. I’d like to think that he’s watching us, somewhere, looking down and smiling.

This date is also the day that my niece, Emily was born, two years ago today. She is a burst of female in a world dominated by boys, my three and my three nephews and she can always look forward to having some very protective cousins looking after her.

I started this for me. Somehow, like therapy, things are better when they come out of my head and get put somewhere else. While more and more people read this blog, I tend to think alot about what I write down beforehand so it is less a journal and more a reflection. Sometimes however, it still needs to be for me. Sorry folks, but this one is entirely selfish. Read it if you want. Just a warning. I know that I can write it and hit draft and it would stay in a state of limbo as long as I wanted. Or I can write the whole thing and hit delete and it would be out of me but I don’t think that either of those options would make me feel any better. It’s kind of like cheating. This is supposed to be about the good and the bad, everything rolled into one – me.

We went down to NJ to a family party this weekend. It was my niece’s first birthday Saturday. We had a good time, saw family and friends and ate and laughed. There was one person that I didn’t see.  I could have visited him, but I didn’t. I want to think that he was there somewhere and I missed him.  For some reason, I physically cannot get myself to go where he is now. I did go in the past. I went a couple times. But for all its serenity and quietness, it is not the place I want to be, not where I want to go to visit. Saturday marked 8 years since my dad passed away, suddenly. The sadness of the day has been replaced by happiness since my niece was born last year, and that is good, but somehow for me it cannot erase that empty feeling that came when he left. To make matters all that much better this year, yesterday was Father’s Day. Double whammy. Back to back sadness. Phone calls to all the dads in our life – my father-in-law, my brother, my brother-in-law, and most importantly, my husband. The last time I heard my dad’s voice was on Father’s Day. It’s been eight years, I am a grown woman with a family of boys on the cusp of manhood, I should not get all teary-eyed every year – parents die and so goes the circle of life. But I do, I didn’t talk about it, everyone else didn’t even seem to remember, so caught up in all the happiness that now surrounds the day. It seems wrong not to at least remember, he would have remembered us. But I can’t bring myself to go to the cemetery and bring flowers. I thought about it, it is only blocks from where the party was held and we drove all the way down almost four hours to get there, but I couldn’t do it. It is like someone sticking a knife into my heart. I cry, I feel guilty and hurt and miserable and miss him very much. I cannot bring the boys with me and have them watch their mother fall apart – and whatever memories they have of him, should be the memories that they keep, not the stone on the ground with his name on it and their mother crying like an idiot. So, I didn’t say anything. Somehow I’d like to think that he was there, at the party. That he knows that I think about him often and miss him dearly and wish desperately that he could have been around to see my boys grow and spend time with them and make them laugh. And that he would be proud. Like Dads are supposed to be of their kids.

We are fortunate to have good friends and neighbors. The days leading up to and Christmas were made especially nice by the constant interaction between us all here on the hill. Baked goods were exchanged back and forth with some yummy results, doorbells rang with wishes of good cheer and Merry Christmas. It is very nice to experience Christmas with a group of people who you care about and knowing that the feeling is reciprocal. While the flow of children is ever – present in our house, something about Christmas makes it all the more special. We are very lucky to have such good friends and neighbors which makes living here in Vermont all that much more special. 

I think that one of the reasons that Christmas time holds a special place in my heart is that it was my dad’s favorite holiday. He was like the biggest of all the kids and Christmas was definitely when he had the most fun. Some of my fondest memories are Christmases growing up. I always think of him this time of the year. He would love it here and be very proud of us and our wonderful friends and neighbors. 

Tom made me sad today, he was relaying a conversation he had with his father, reminding him that in 7 years all my boys would be grown and gone off to college. It seems like such a short time and makes me feel so…..OLD and SAD. Bummer.

Happy Birthday Daddy. Today is my dad’s birthday. Although he is no longer with us, he is never far from my heart. I miss him a lot and think of him often. I really wish that he was still around since I am so certain he would enjoy and be proud of his grandsons and love it up here in Vermont. 

Our friends Lou and Kirby (yes Lou I am using your name) are coming up again this weekend. They are some of our oldest and dearest friends and it is really very nice to hang out together. No matter how long it may be between our visits, we are able to just pick up without any awkwardness that might happen. That doesn’t happen with all friends and is an indication of a time-tested friendship. We have a sign in our home that Tom and I both feel is fitting — “It takes a long time to grow old friends”.

I miss my dad….a lot. He passed away unexpectedly on this exact date 7 years ago. It was only a few days after Father’s Day. And I will regret it for the rest of my life. I couldn’t see him, although I did talk to him on the phone. The boys were sick with Fifth’s Disease and the pediatrician suggested that I stay away since both my parents were down with some type of bug and with compromised immune systems and my dad’s other medical issues, it was not worth the chance. To this day, I think that maybe I should have disregarded the doctor’s advice and gone see him, at least just me, for Father’s Day. I didn’t and when I did get to the hospital that morning after my brother called, he had already sunk into unconsciousness, from which he never recovered. He never knew that I was there, I never got to say goodbye and tell him that I loved him one last time and I will regret that for the rest of my life. And every time I think about it, it makes me cry. I guess that you never really miss someone, like a parent or a spouse, someone that you take for granted every day, until they are no longer there. And then all you can think about are the things that you will never be able to hear them say, or do, ever again. For instance, there is no one, absolutely no one who will ever call me his “baby” or “sweetheart”. That was my dad who used those terms with me and only him and I can still hear his voice saying those words during that last conversation I had with him on Father’s Day. It makes me really sad and it took a LONG time before I could even bring myself to go to the cemetery, although I felt really guilty about that too.

I yearn for the opportunity for that “one more day” geez even one more conversation or hug or to let him see my boys and what great kids they are turning out to be and how he would be so proud. We often talk, Tom and I about how much my dad would love our house here in Vermont and how much he would enjoy our neighbors and friends and chatting with all of them. My dad loved to talk and gosh, there are so many great people here that I would just have LOVED him to meet and for them to meet him.

That day, 7 years ago, a part of me died along with him, because I know that I am a different person because of what happened. I cannot change that, but I can make sure that the same mistake does not happen again. Life is fragile and such a gift, our life can turn on its end in seconds and usually when we expect it least. Trust me, I know what I mean. I love you Daddy, and I miss you a lot. 

Evilwife on the move

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