Our dad was a bit of a perfectionist in the kitchen. While most of the weekly cooking duties were clearly our mom’s domain, part of the Sunday morning family ritual after Mass included Bacon and Eggs. While we kids had the job of setting the dining room table, Mom poured the orange juice and was on toast detail, but Dad watched over the bacon and eggs like he had been charged with the task of guarding the Hope Diamond. Each slice of hickory-smoked bacon was arranged almost scientifically on the broiler pan, the oven timer was set, and then he’d pull out the cast iron skillet to make fried eggs. It was Sunday morning, and life was good, until a yolk would break, as they sometimes do, and then an expletive or two would be heard coming from the kitchen. Dad took his eggs extremely seriously! Nothing went on the plate if it was not just so.
My brother reminded me of our Sunday egg ritual recently when I posted an early-morning photo on Instagram with the caption, “If at first you don’t succeed, fry, fry again.” Right after my post appeared, he wrote, “Dad would’ve been so upset you did that!” My reply was, “And therein lies the lesson! I didn’t utter one swear word when Egg #1 broke. I slid it over and grabbed another egg. And our dog didn’t mind the broken yolk at all!”
For my siblings and me, Dad’s “eggcitable” temperament in the kitchen was an early lesson with both good and bad messages intertwined. To do a good job and to be careful were important lessons learned, but there was a perfectionist tone that has taken me many years to work through. Through the years, Dad mellowed. I’m not sure if his approach to egg-cooking ever became less intense, but through life’s many ups and downs, Dad and Mom continued to teach me many things.
The lesson I treasure most was one I stumbled upon totally by accident, when I stayed overnight at our childhood home a few years before our mom passed away. At this point in their lives, Mom’s Parkinson’s Disease was well-advanced, and she suffered from dementia. Our once-vibrant, funny, beautiful mother was now almost child-like and gentle, relying on our dad for so many of her daily needs. Dad took on the role of caregiver. The marriage vows that they had said some forty-plus years earlier began to illustrate “in sickness and in health.” But that’s not the only lesson I learned. When I went downstairs to grab the tote bag I’d left in the kitchen, I saw them sitting together in the living room, praying the rosary together. Dad later told me they did this every evening before bed. I never knew this until that one visit, and it’s an image I will always remember, as it was so intimate, so very beautiful.
Our mom was buried on what would have been our parents’ forty-ninth wedding anniversary. Our dad passed away ten years later. While I miss them both dearly, I treasure the merciful moments like these that were part of our family’s story. Laughing with my brother about a few broken yolks reminded me of the importance of telling our family stories and keeping the memories of those saints who have gone before us alive.