Food. What a topic. But in so many ways Andrew and Nicole’s lives are so defined by food and food related stories.
Andrew loved his food. He ate almost anything and everything. Both of my kids grew up at grandma and Poppi’s house, they spent hours and hours in Poppi’s garden. They learned to enjoy vegetables grown fresh from the garden, raw, grilled, in a salad, wherever. They loved veggies.
Both of them also loved sushi. We made and ate sushi at home from when they were very young, and they were both pretty accomplished at making their own. Whenever we traveled we like to make at least one meal a sushi meal. The only issue is Andrew and his soy sauce. He is pretty particular about his soy sauce. I remember I brought home another brand one day and he was not happy. He tasted it and promptly sent me back out for ‘his’ brand. There might be a minor difference in the flavor, but he would always know when we switched them on him.
He was never really into fast food – didn’t eat at McD’s or BK much, But he did enjoy the local pizza shop.
Nicole loves fast food. When she goal tended for the state championship final game, one of the parents told her if she had a shutout, which was almost impossible in the championship game, the parents would buy her anything she wanted for dinner after the game. Given that incentive, on about forty shots, she pulled off a shutout. Her reward? We had to stop the bus with twenty kids and thirty parents at McD’s on the way back home, 10PM, in a snowstorm, somewhere in Syracuse. The team very graciously let Nicole order first. Her order – “The Dollar Menu.” The cashier looked at her and asked her what she wanted. She repeated – “The dollar menu.” Again, the cashier looked at her and then Nicole made it clear – “The entire dollar menu, all twenty two items.” From burgers, to a shake, a sundae, chicken sandwich, fries, etc., the entire dollar menu. And to everyone’s astonishment she sat in the bus and finished the entire dollar menu, courtesy of the team parents. That was a one time splurge, she does not eat like that now! But she was very happy that bus ride home. Three bags all to herself. While others had a burger or a drink, Nicole was in heaven.
Andrew experimented as well. We ate a few times at my favorite restaurant in Port Chester – Chavin, a small Peruvian restaurant. Andrew had eaten there a couple of times with me and enjoyed it, so when the four of us went for my birthday one year he was happy to go back. There were some steak specialties on the menu, some rice and beans, etc. But after perusing the menu for a few minutes, my son ordered the skewed cow heart over french fries and rice. He was always in for experimenting new food and this was no exception. Although only I accepted a taste from his plate, he seemed to really enjoy that meal, and said he would re-order it another time. Even when we went to the Korean BBQ, he would always order something new and always wanted to try something different.
From when the kids where babies, Uncle Roy has been coming over at least once or twice a week. Roy and Dorothy, and sometimes I would help out, would make pretty elaborate meals for the five or six of us (once Roy got married). They would make Italian meals, Greek, Jewish, Mexican – and not the usual meals, but some exotic different plates. Nicole and Andrew would not want to miss these meals – for although they were very different, the food was always a treat. Sometimes the cooking would take three or four hours on a Saturday or Sunday, and we would finish dinner in an hour – but spending the day with Roy cooking was always fun. Roy even talked about this in his eulogy last year. We all looked forward to these well planned out, specialty meals.
The first time we had people over our home last fall was our annual wine dinner. It was a hard day for me to cook so much for so many people, but I know Andrew used to enjoy my cooking, and that was my motivation to continue this annual tradition. Each item on the menu was something that he enjoyed, and I made them the way he liked it. After everyone had gone, Dorothy and I did a toast to Andrew, knowing that we did this dinner in his memory.
Nicole last summer started her own garden, using some of Poppi’s seeds, but all of Poppi’s motivation. Although he has been gone for a few years now, Nicole talks about her namesake all the time, and she is so proud that she is carrying on his tradition of a full garden. Last year we had an abundance of fresh vegetables, and gave away over two thousand peppers. The zucchini was the largest we had ever seem, and the tomatoes were abundant. I remember Todd coming over at the end of August and picking several of the cucumbers and eating them right from the garden – he was amazed at the way fresh cucumbers actually tasted. We love Todd, but there were none left for anyone else, but he really enjoyed them and Nicole was very happy about that.
This year the garden is once again flourishing, and I hear that we are in expansion mode for next year, which I am very happy about. It keeps Poppi’s memory alive, and makes everyone enjoy the summer just a little bit more.
So this year, for Andrew’s anniversary, we decided not to stay home and cry all day alone, or even with friends and family. For Mother’s day, Nicole bought Dorothy tickets to the Greenwich Village Food Tour, and what a better tribute to Andrew than taking the day and spending it eating our way around Greenwich Village. We followed our very entertaining tour guide for three hours of culinary treats from Murray’s Cheese, to pizza, to rollatini and canollis. While we had a very special time, just the three of us, we know Andrew would have enjoyed this as much as we did, and we know that he was there with us every step of the way.
Now we start our second year without Andrew. As Cynthia and Pam and other grieving parents have told us, time is no longer marked by the calendar or the year. Time is marked from when our lives changed. The calendar means so little now, our timeline of life has changed.
What is important is that we have made it through the first year. We did not do this alone, for we could not have made it through the last year by ourselves. We made it through with the love and support of so many people. From our family to our friends, Dorothy’s colleagues to my close knit network of ACCs worldwide, from our new friends in bereavement groups to my clients and hockey friends. Almost everyone has stepped up, made a call, taken us under their wing, joined us for lunch or dinner, done something to show us how much they love us and want us to survive this terrible tragedy. There is a special blessing for each and every one of you. But more important, you know who you are, and we know who each and every one of you are that has helped us.
Thank you so much. Now on to the second year of our lives, which we hear is harder than the first. So please keep calling, keep coming over, keep joining us for dinner, and keep up with us, we need it now more than ever. And as I have said before, yes, we will cry, and please, cry with us. And We will talk about our Andrew, and please talk about Andrew with us.