Creating family

I lost a very good friend a week ago. I hadn’t actually seen him for more than 10 years. I knew him as a kid when we lived in the same neighborhood in Palo Alto, California. And then we reconnected some years ago. I enjoyed catching up with him. But I learned that the reason he had moved as a child was because his mom died hen he was 13. This adult reconnection was important because it is when I learned that his mom had killed herself, and of all of his suffering since. My mom had died early too, although I was a few years older. I was honored that he revealed his past to me, the stuff I couldn’t have known or understood as a kid.

We had our roots in common. Our neighborhood was really special. It was a little sliver of land just next to the famed Stanford University. We all went to school with a lot of the kids whose parents were professors. It was in the 60s. My house was filled with people. My mom was one of those people who just invited people in, from anywhere. And she’d cook. And the adults would stay up late at night talking. Those years formed us. I know I am not so different from my mom in many ways. I see now that my now lost friend was probably not that different from his mom either.

It was only in the last 3 years that we became very close. I would find him online when I was wide awake at night, after midnight my time. It was 8 hours earlier in California. In these early hours I would sometimes find it difficult to imagine living another day with the pain of losing my son. This newish, old friend, had so much compassion. He would talk/chat with me for hours. Mostly he would listen. Very few people are able to listen like he was. And it helped. I needed to talk and be listened to.

This week has been difficult for me. It has been a reminder of my own deep loss. I think of his family and how they are suffering. When I lost my son I immediately started cooking. Maybe not that night, but certainly the day after. It is something I have always done for comfort. I wish I could cook for my friend’s family. I would be doing that if I were in California. But today I am imagining that my son is up there, wherever that is, cooking for my friend, helping him ease into his new life.

My son was not too different from me. He used food for comfort. In the absence of him I have had to create a new family. My now dead friend was part of that family, the family I have created. I have lost another dear friend and part of my new family, but I am gaining some of his family as my own. I may not be able to cook for them today, but I am sure I will one day. And we will share stories of our losses, and of our life being renewed when we never thought it possible. I am cooking a lot these days. It is all I know how to do when I am sad. And the magic of food, its ability to pick me up, soothe me, make others happy… well, I am just so thankful for it. Just as I am thankful for my new friends, the strangers who join me in meals in my home.

On July 1st I will cook a big meal at the Nomad Chef in honor of my friend. I hope that he and my son will have their own party up there and that we can all share a meal and think of the families we have and the ones we are yet to create.

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