Everybody grieves in different ways. You can’t tell someone that they are grieving the wrong way. Because there really isn’t a right way. Is there a length of time that is the correct amount of time to grieve? Some may grieve over a loss for days and some live their whole life grieving. I am learning that grieving is a process. My mom was recently telling me stories of her mom. She was having very vivid dreams of her and the houses they used to live in here in the States and in Hungary. My mom was just 20 when her mom passed away. Hearing her reminisce about her mom you would think she was without her for a much shorter time. Hearing her share her stories let me learn a little more about my grandmother I never had a chance to know.
I’m grieving and it’s been 8 months since my dad passed away. Is it wrong or ok? My daughter was surprised a few weeks ago. I was having some tough weeks after we came back from our trip to Italy. I couldn’t shake the sadness that was holding on to me with a tight grip. I tried to make it go away every day and some days it was stronger than me. I did my best to hide it from the kids. Who wants to see their mom cry? But one day I had to explain my not so happy demeanor and explained that I was sad because I miss my father. My daughter asked me, “You’re still upset? Why are you still so sad about it?” How do you explain to an 11 year old that you probably never stop missing or feeling sad when you lose a parent? I did my best in expressing my feelings. I believe my explanation was satisfactory.
I think about my dad constantly. When I’m grocery shopping, I think about walking through the aisles with him. I hear his voice at every turn as I make my weekly trip: Don’t buy the dented cans. Check the prices. That brand is too expensive, buy the other one. Did you bring your coupons I gave you? He’s always there with me. He’s there with me when I bake and cook. He’s there with me when I drive. I hear his lessons at every stop and turn. Always look out for the other drivers. Give yourself enough time to arrive at your destination so you don’t speed. Always keep a full tank of gas. Innumerous little life lessons I stifled these years are now presenting themselves with every step I take every day. I did know my dad was sick and would pass away, I just wasn’t ready for how empty my life would feel without him. I suppose people just assume your parent is old and if they are sick, well they lived a long life and it was their time. It seems to me almost as if the loss of a parent is taken lightly more lightly than other losses. Especially if you are an adult and lose your parent. I’m not expecting my friends to hug me every time they see me and ask how I am. But grieving sucks.
I feel it is up to me to keep my dad’s spirit alive. There are so many things my dad’s own family didn’t know about him. I was talking with one of his older sisters in Sicily the other day and asked her if she knew my dad had cancer for the first time in 197o’s. She didn’t even know he had cancer a second time. The first time the doctors gave him 6 months to live. I remember my mom breaking down crying. She was desperately wondering what she would do without him and two little kids? My dad made it and he also beat cancer a 2nd time in the 1990′s. He was a fighter like no one I’ve ever met.
I hope you don’t mind if I sometimes share some photos, sometimes a story and a recipe that remind me of my dad. Photos from this past January when my brother and I brought him home to his beloved Sicilia to be laid to rest. Photos from this summer when we got to spend a week there. Oh, there are so many photos I could share here and you know what…it will help me heal and deal with feelings. It will help me to grieve. After all my dad was the ultimate foodie. He was a farmer from Sicily. He had restaurants here in Florida and was quite the chef. Dad was very picky about food and loved to help me with my baking and cooking. He adored my baking and every single recipe I look at from before January reminds me of him. He tried every single cake, bread and pie. I will keep baking and will keep thinking of him. Sharing some things in Project Sicilia will be a way for me to keep the memories of my father alive. This will be a connection for my kids to my dad. One day they may look here and read a little about him and where he came from. Not all of them are sweet stories. But it is a connection to me and my story. This is the 2nd quote on the list he started.
non fare agli altri ciò che non vorresti fosse fatto a te stesso
do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Matthew 7:12
My dad collected quotes. He left them in a notebook and wrote that it was : La verita’ della vita-the truth of life. He wrote that we should think about them and remember him. There has to be about 1,000 of them that he was working on assembling in one place these last few decades. He had some of his Italian friends helping him with them. They would write them down on a list and give them to him for his collection. Some are written in Italian and some in Sicilian. I’m thinking about him when I look at his writings. It’s like an explosion of all the lessons he tried to teach us during his lifetime compressed in this manila folder. This post is really difficult for me to write and I keep vacillating back and forth between do it and don’t do it. Crying and wiping my tears saying do it because I can’t keep avoiding his things. Even though it is so hard to face.
This past weekend I had a birthday. It was eerily quiet here the morning of my birthday. There was a huge storm the night before full of rain and lightning that seemed to strike right above our house. In the middle of the night the mangoes were hitting the roof almost like little bombs one after the other from the wind and the rain. It was weird to not have my first “happy birthday” call be from my dad. The first year ever I didn’t hear his happy voice telling me buon compleanno and that he loved me…ti voglio bene. I was doing my normal thing the whole day and kept busy with delicious food that was made for me and cheered by the sweet messages my friends sent me. But the sadness was overwhelming at some points of the day. Maybe that storm passing in the middle of the night to wake me was him saying hello.
This is a cake we made in Italy for my father-in-law’s birthday this summer. It’s a cake I make pretty often and recently am just filling it with our mango jam that we made this summer. This particular one was decorated with some gorgeous berries and grapes and had a lovely strawberry filling.
When we were in Sicily this January everywhere we went my cousin Alessio would stop at a vendor and bargain. Alessio is my father’s cousin that he grew up with in Sicily and also lived with for a period in America. Alessio’s parents brought my father over to America from Sicily in the late 60′s.
Alessio loved the bantering with the fishermen. They never had the right price. He would argue in Sicilian at every single fisherman’s cart. It was rare to find a fish that looked good enough for what he wanted to make for us.
Here is the Chiesa San Domenico . San Domenico is a Baroque church from the 1600′s in my dad’s hometown. Just one of the many incredibly beautiful churches that you will find in Sicily.
My cousin Alessio and my brother leaving the cemetery this January.
I adore Sicilian pizza. Here is Sicilian pizza at a bakery where my cousin Alessio gets his bread every day. The owner/baker let us barge into the kitchen and take a few photos. He was beaming with pride over his bread and every thing else they were selling. Alessio got him to give us a sample of every thing. “What do you want to try?” he asked my brother and I. I was embarrassed to say what I wanted because I never ask for samples of any thing in Italy. Even in an ice-cream shop I feel embarrassed to ask for a sample because it never was customary to do as it is here. Alessio kept insisting. “Come on! They love me here. I get my bread here every day. They don’t even give me a bill when I leave. Go ahead. Prova…try” So we started with some sesame cookies and finished with a pizza.
The photos of Sicily were taken by me when we were there this January. Thanks for following along my little project: Project Sicilia is what I’ll call it. There are so many recipes that remind us of people we loved and lost – a mother’s cherry pie, grandmother’s famous fried chicken, a father’s favorite meatloaf. Baking and cooking is a way for me to create memories with my kids and also to remember certain things my dad loved and shared together. What is the right way to grieve? I still have no clue. One thing I do know is that creating food in my kitchen is helping me to deal with my grief.