On Baseball and Onions
My father was an angry man. As an adult, I realize that my father never really had a gentle, strong role model in his life that would teach him the meaning of family.
My father after much abuse from his own father ran away from home at age nine. My grandmother was helpless in trying to help her son. My father would sneak back to the house just to get a hot meal. On cold rainy nights, my father would sleep under the house with the dogs. He never went home again.
Years later he appeared in New York City where he quickly learned to cook. He worked his teen age years and his adult life as a chef in many restaurants in New York. His greatest claim to fame was a great review in the New York Times. His cooking was described as a “fresh new take on old classics”.
My father did not spend much time at home. He believed that we were a great hindrance to him. His relationship with my mom was the equivalent of world superpowers going at it in an enclosed place. I’m surprised they never spontaneously combusted.
On the few times that he was home, my sisters and I figured out how to get him to cook for us. My mom had taught us how to cook at an early age but we decided that we would mess what we were doing: we dropped utensils, cracked eggs the wrong way and purposely put too high a heat on our pan. My father would get frustrated, shoo us away so that he could “show” us how to do it right. We pretended to watch, smiling because we knew that we were getting a great breakfast.
My father did manage to teach me two great lessons, though. My father was a New York Yankees fan. He had a love/hate relationship with them. When they won, he loved them and would sing their praised. When they lost, he hated them and would spew venom at the television. I vividly remember our televisions flying out the window. Still, he never missed a game.
I was desperate to share something with him, anything. So I began to watch the Yankees myself. I would tell him about the games. I learned the plays. I memorized line ups and players’ histories. My father was impressed. This made me want to please him more. He began to invite me to his restaurant, to show me off to his buddies. I didn’t care; I just wanted to be with him.
During baseball’s off season, I tried to find ways to get my father to give me attention. I learned how to cook his favorite meals. He came into the kitchen one day while I was cooking. I was 13 years old. I was struggling with dicing onions. My father gently showed my how to carefully cut the onion in half, lay it on its side and gently cut into it to form a small dice.
Tears came to my eyes. At first I thought it was because of the onion fumes but long after dinner was cooked and eaten and my father had left, I was still crying.
My father passed away on Mother’s Day 2004. His relationship with us was difficult and painful. He caused much damaged that sometimes appears to be irreparable. Shortly before he died, he came to my home and begged my forgiveness. I was a brand new Christian yet I wasn’t ready for this. Still, I found myself saying, “Of course, I forgive you. Jesus forgave me, how could I not forgive you?”
God in His infinite wisdom allowed me to spend time with my father. Despite our strained relationship, I finally understood why God allowed it to be restored. The guilt that normally follows the death of one such as my father is something I never experienced. I had done everything I was supposed to do. I was a good daughter.
I was chosen by my sisters to eulogize him. Although all I could think to speak about was baseball and onions I realize that my father did the best that he could. God the Father, my Father, took this small thing and made much out of it. He made much out of little. I will always thank Him for healing my heart.
I still love baseball and the Yankees and I still love cooking. For this I thank my father.
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