Thursday, August 26, 2010

Too Haunted to Blog

Dr. Mars, my kind but increasingly horrified shrink, reassures me that some day I’ll regard my late parents as something akin to “historical figures.” He doesn’t say which historical figures (Rasputin? Pat Nixon? Howard of Troy?) but that’s not the point. The point is, he wants me to think that some day I might stop having the nightmare I’ve had every night for the last five years wherein they show up at my house for Thanksgiving dinner only to find I’ve: (a) completely forgotten that they were coming, and, far worse; (b) completely forgotten to go to the store.

It’s not just my late parents who appear every night on my R.E.M. doorstep, it’s every late relative I ever had, as well as a few who still dare to live. Indeed, there are nights when Polish and Ukrainian graveyards alike issue my ancestors long weekend passes just so they can stop by and eat. There they all are, nicely arrayed in their black shredded shrouds and matching babushkas, waiting for cocktails and hot juicy drumsticks, and there I am with nothing to give them.

When I say nothing, I mean Truly Nothing, as in no chairs for my dead guests to sit in, no table to hold my dead roasted turkey. Not that it matters, since another thing I don't have is an oven. This is not only true in my nightmare, but in Real Life as well. The only real-life oven I have is the convection oven my landlord’s microwave is supposed to turn into if I were to push the right buttons--except that I've never tried it because I know it will turn into a blow torch instead. Also, in real life, I don‘t have a stove. I have a hot plate that dies every year, after which I go out and replace it.

“So you used to cook Thanksgiving dinner for your family?” Dr. Mars asks me when I explain how having variations of this dream every night without interruption leaves me feeling, every subsequent morning, crushed by delirium, not to mention too haunted to blog.

“Every year since I was 24,” I remind him.

I’m sure I’ve told him this a zillion times, unless I’ve just vividly thought it a zillion times. “Also Christmas and Easter and all family birthdays and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day too.”

I ask my friends if they too dream of their late parents nightly, and they tell me: "No.  Not even yearly."
Is this because they are sane while I am not, or merely because they all have real kitchens? Or is that the same question since only a mental would settle for living without a real kitchen? 

Why, I ask Dr. Mars, does the Food Network Channel never address such matters? Why, for example,  can’t Bobby Flay ever grill out of grief? Or Paula Deen deep fry her sons, plunge them in mayo, and cater a wake?

"Who are Bobby and Dean?" he asks.

I tell him they’re historical figures.


  1. My husband dreamt he went over to his parents' house every night for many years after they died. Sometimes they were there, sometimes not, but clearly he was dreaming about his lost family in either case.

    It has finally stopped, so there's hope.

  2. I believe they come because they love you dearly, and know you love them. They also know you don't like to cook, and they don't like to eat...anymore, so they just come to visit, be with you, and make sure you're doing fine.

  3. Dear Carol and Irene,
    Thank you both for your kind and wise comments. Your encouragement means more to me than I can express!

  4. Interesting comment about cooking from grief. I lost my mother earlier this year, and have been unable to stop the desire to cook elaborate dinners almost daily. Also, when a dear friend died suddenly in mid-August, the only thing that made me feel better later that day (besides two large glasses of wine) was to prepare a fattening pasta dish.

    Good luck w/ the dream therapy!

  5. Oh, Helen, the loss of your mom is so recent and fresh, and then so compounded by the loss of your friend, no wonder you are cooking your head off. Were you raised Catholic too? I only ask because sometimes I think that's what connects grief and cooking for me: all that anointing and holy communing--even as an atheist, I still think of cooking as some sort of sacrament, whether it's for the dead or the living, not that I know the difference between them. Your need to cook elaborate dinners isn't, in my book, a desire that needs to be "stopped"--to me it's as natural and inevitable as Babette's desire to make that damn feast. (Talk about an elaborate dinner.) Thanks so much for writing (AND cooking.)

  6. Your comment about not knowing the difference between the living and the dead - it's something I feel keenly. I think at a certain age, when the balance starts to tip towards dying, your world becomes increasingly peopled by the dead as well as the living. The newest manifestation for me is actually seeing live people who look like the dead ones.
    This is why the Day of the Dead is wonderful - it celebrates the connection between life and death.

  7. Wow. A little late to the party, but here, nevertheless. I do not have a real kitchen either. Long story. I have a butane canister fueled hot plate (much better than the electric ones) and a largish convection toaster oven. While I long for a real kitchen as I am a real cook, I have learned to make do. I am pretty mental too and am glad I finally know why.

  8. I guess I'm feeling better overall after reading Dear Ms. Gonick's blog and the posts thereto. My wee Youngstown kitchen (great for magnet-ing photos to cover up the hideousness) does have a (crappy) oven and a shelf for my toaster oven. No dishwasher, disposal or microwave, so in the past I've felt somewhat deprived, but now I'm counting my blessings, and if I had space for you all at the table, I'd invite you over for dinner, tho' you'd have to leave your beloved rellies in your dreams. Glad to hear from you, Jean.

  9. Thank you so much, Suzanne and Rose, for these most recent comments. They somehow gave me the courage to post again. And I really do think we should all meet for dinner at Rose's. She might not have the space, but don't forget cyberspace. I can't believe I said that. Please forgive me. I love you all.