I ate Chinese food for lunch today. What may seem like an ordinary occurrence to most people was anything but in my world. Itís been 19 years since Iíve eaten Chinese food on this date. I can remember the last time like it was just yesterday.
I was a young woman of 19 at the time. It was normally my fatherís job to pick me up from work, but he was in the hospital, so the task fell to my mother. I had wanted to visit Dad at the hospital on our way home, but Mom had spent the afternoon there and we were going to my aunt and uncleís house for Chinese food. Since Dad would be coming home in a few days and I was hungry, I didnít push the issue.
When we got to my aunt and uncleís home, the Chinese food containers were already laid out on the dining room table. The food was from our familyís favorite Chinese restaurant, Sun Sun Kitchen. As we opened each box, the aromas filled the house with a mouth-watering promise. We had just sat down and eaten our first few bites when the phone rang.
I knew. Before my aunt handed the phone to my mother; before I heard Momís anguished cry; before I watched the phone fall out of her hand and clatter to the floor; before my mother turned to us and confirmed my worst nightmare, I knew what had happened.
We rushed out of the house, the Chinese food long forgotten in our haste to get to the hospital. If ever again through that long night we thought about the Chinese food, it was with resentment. We blamed the Chinese food. If it werenít for the food, we may have been there for him and maybe we could have changed what had happened. We knew we werenít being realistic, but at that point all of our grief, all of our anger, all of our pain, and all of our anguish was directed at those little cardboard containers of Chinese food.
It was a few years before my mother and I were able to once again enjoy what had once been one of our favorite foods. We found a new Chinese restaurant to eat at, and although their food was never as good as Sun Sun Kitchenís, it was easier for us to swallow. Yet with all the meals we had over the years, we never again ate Chinese food on that date. We didnít discuss the decision, but we both knew that it would somehow feel like a betrayal to eat Chinese food on this anniversary.
Today my son came to me and asked if we could have Chinese food for lunch. Although I knew what date it was, it still didnít register in my mind exactly what he was asking for. I somehow missed the connection until we were sitting at our dining room table, eating the first few bites of our meals. When it hit me, I waited for the feelings of betrayal to come, but they never did. Sitting here with my son, who shares my fatherís name, the Chinese food didnít taste at all like betrayal. It tasted, instead, like tribute.
I ate Chinese food for lunch today. I think I may make it an annual event.