We were a sad little threesome, steeped in grief and unable to express to one another all the pain and sorrow we felt. We hadn't been able to talk about my mother's cancer, and we didn't have the emotional tools to discuss her death, either. The drive to the resturant on a two lane forested and winding road felt much too long, too dark, and I don't know if there was conversation. I imagine we just drove, looking forward to the busy resturant.
The Saturday night Chinese dinner was a time to forget for awhile the sadness at our house. We ate fragrant rice dotted with crunchy vegetables, noodles in rich sauces, strong tea. Together we sat in the darkened restaurant with the thick carpet and tacky decorations surrounded by people who laughed and talked and were "normal" unlike the three of us who were shell-shocked by illness, loss and sorrow. The staff at the restaurant knew us, and always seemed pleased to have us there. I don't remember details, just the feeling of being wanted. The restaurant was an oasis, a place to act as if we were a family, even if there was an empty seat at the table, and a gaping hole in our hearts.
After the dinner, I would go out partying with my friends. There were many times my father and brother dined alone. I was too busy with my life to be bothered with making a commitment to the dinner. If it suited my mood I'd go, if something better came up, I would brush them off. My brother always went with my dad. I was young and didn't realize at the time that one day I would wish I would have gone to every Saturday night Chinese dinner, but we all have those kind of regrets, of wishing we knew then what we know now.
When I did make time, I went not because I wanted to spend time with my father and brother, but because it was a free meal and my father let me order a cocktail.
Memories can haunt us, but without them who would we be? Hemingway died in a sad way, but that's just one memory of him. From this photo below he looks like he had a lot of good times hanging out at the Floridita drinking with his buddies at the bar. (That's Spencer Tracy to his left. His wife on the right.) I wonder what stories they were all telling each other.
We all have stories. Some sad. Some happy. I couldn't find that Chinese restaurant my father took us if you asked me. Perhaps it still exists, or maybe it has closed, but it will always have a place in my heart. For sure, there is no bronze statute of the three of us, but I have my memories put into words which honor my life.
Life is like a puzzle and we all have both the dark and light pieces that make the picture complete.