as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
My wife's a great cook.
In fact, she's such a great cook she can even make English food taste good, and any food you have to put vinegar on to improve the flavor of, well, let's just say you'd have to admit that it would be a challenge. She makes everything from scratch, and doesn’t mind spending hours in the kitchen preparing a delectable feast for those she loves.
I include myself in that group.
One time, my beloved mother, when she was still alive and my wife wasn't around, asked me who the better cook was.
I was diplomatic, but honest.
“Mom,” I told her, “when it comes to cooking Mexican food, you're the best, but my wife's the better cook when it comes to cooking different kinds of food.”
Since Mexican food is all my mother ever made, she was happy with my answer.
Recently, my wife made some delicious fried rice. It had corn, it had peas, it had carrots, but what it mainly had were large chunks of perfectly seasoned chicken. Moist and tender.
Just like my wife.
I served myself. My father, on the other hand, likes to be served or he won't eat. He's old-school that way. Myself, I don't believe in going hungry.
To be honest, my wife serving my father is something I’m always a little irked by, but who else is going to do it? Me? I’m not thoughtful that way. I figure, if you can make it to the table, you can get your own plate.
That reminds me of the old saying about fish. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime, but if you GIVE a man a fish, he’ll beat you with it and steal the rest from you. Anyway…
Napkin, utensils, drink, dinner, dessert... it was all on the table. All he had to do was sit and eat, and sitting and eating is what he does best. Even when my father isn't feeling well he still has a healthy appetite. Once, when he was on one of his many deathbeds, my mother asked him why he wanted her to make him a snack.
“Honey,” he told her, very sincerely, “it's not my stomach's fault I'm sick.”
Anyway, the fried rice was great, and I made it a point to tell my wife just that. She smiled that modest smile of hers.
She knew it was great.
My father, meanwhile, was still chowing down. Chomp, chomp, chomp! He cleaned his plate in record time. If he was a kid, I could imagine him lifting the plate to his face and licking it clean.
“Did you like the fried rice, pop?” I asked him.
It was obvious he did.
“Did you like it?”
“The fried rice.”
“The fried rice?”
“Did I like it?”
“It was good,” he told me, “but the chicken was kind of tough.”
My wife didn’t meet anyone’s eyes. She just got up from the table and walked away.
For the record, my wife has never made a tough piece of chicken in her life.
“Where's she going?” my father--the diplomat--asked, and then looked around to see who was going to serve him seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths.
The thing of it is, that's my father's idea of a compliment.
I may have already told you this story. If I have, well, get ready to hear it again. My wife and I took my parents on a three day/four night cruise to Mexico. As we stood there walking along the beautiful Ensenada beach, my father told us, “You know, I’ve been to beaches prettier than this one.”
See what I mean?
If not, let me tell you about one particularly hot summer when my parent’s air conditioner finally gave up the ghost. Out of the goodness of my heart (and with a little nudging from my wife) I decided to buy them a new one. The store we bought it from gave us a day and a time it would be delivered and installed. I made it a point to be there just in case, you know, anything went wrong. Like my father kicking the workers off his property before they were finished with the installation, for example.
The workers got up on the roof and removed the old air conditioner, the one that came with the house. When they brought it down to ground level, my father and I took a look at it. Yeah, it was past its expiration date.
Just like my ex-wife.
But I digress...
The workers then retrieved a huge box from their work van. As they tore the cardboard open, my father examined his new air conditioner closely.
“Plastic?” he complained. “It's made out of plastic? Where'd you buy it, the dollar store?”
No, actually I bought it at Sears, and, for the record, only the shell of the air conditioner was made out of a hard plastic. Everything on the inside was quality merchandise. Plastic makes sense. It's a way to save money, sell it for less, and make it lighter to transport. I won't mention the actual brand I bought, although I have a politician’s healthy appreciation for payola, but it was a name brand and the model I bought was top of the line. It was actually more air conditioner than they needed.
“Don’t ruin your generosity, son,” he advised me, “by being cheap.”
Like I said, that's my father's way of giving a compliment.
And you can send YOUR compliments to RaisingMyFather.BlogSpot.com, JimDuchene.BlogSpot.com, or @JimDuchene.