My Father’s Day Tribute
My father has been gone now for 13 years. About a week after my father’s funeral my youngest brother called to say he had dreamed about Dad. “He was standing beside a barbecue grill” Eric said.
It was appropriate. My father enjoyed cooking. My mother was the everyday cook, especially when we kids were young, as Dad worked overtime in those early days to establish his practice. My father was the holiday cook. My mother was the adventurer, trying all sorts of new recipes when we arrived in Los Angeles- lasagna, in those early days made with cottage and jack cheeses, and tacos made with ground beef and those awful pre-made hard shells- it was the 50’s after all.
Dad was the keeper of the flame, cooking the dishes he had watched his mother cook in New Orleans- the gumbos, and the oyster and ground beef stuffing for turkey that was traditional in our family. Mom tried a chestnut dressing one of our first Thanksgivings in Los Angeles. We all pronounced it “nasty” and it was never seen again.
My father moved us to Los Angeles from New Orleans, when I was young, in search of a better life for himself and his family. He took us back to visit as often as he could, and I have many fond memories of steamy summers spent there. I loved the large Sunday family gatherings in the shared yard between the two houses my grandfather had built on St. Anthony Street many years before, one occupied by my Aunt Leticia and her family, and the other by my Nanny Marion.
There was ham, fried chicken, potato salad and watermelon, and all sorts of deliciously flavored sodas which were delivered by the crateload to the houses like milk was delivered to ours in L.A. We were not allowed sodas back home in Los Angeles, except on very rare occasions- my father was a dentist and it was deemed unhealthy for us.
Along with the feasts, there was a whole lot of storytelling, music and dancing. Dad would often spend our last day there filling an ice chest with shell fish from the Gulf to take back to Los Angeles. I realized, when I started writing about New Orleans, how much he must have missed it, and the family he left behind. He continued to visit regularly for the rest of his life. Now I, too, have come to understand the appeal of “the city that care forgot”, and, indeed, to love it. I often wonder what life would have been if we had stayed there, and I recognize the difficulty of the choice he made.