Chicken Parmesan = Gratitude in Sobriety
I had an amazing reminder this week about how amazing it is to be abstinent:
I love making holidays special. In particular holidays that single out the best people in my life. Therefore birthdays, and Father’s Day are particularly special for me.
As Father’s day was approaching, we knew we were going to be able to travel 3 hours south to see my Dad and stepmom. What’s even better is my daughters were going to join us for the visit. Even as grown adults, maybe especially now, they appreciate the wisdom and love that has been the essence of their grandpa and they make every effort they can to spend time with him and my stepmom.
I decided I would make the dish I am most proud of these days - chicken parmesan. It takes a bit of work as I make the tomato sauce from scratch, buying and blending expensive cans of tomatoes, pounding the chicken flat before it’s floured, dunked and breaded. Then of course it’s browned and layered with deliciousness before it’s baked to its final yummy conclusion. I really hate cooking in someone else’s kitchen so I started my prep a few days early. Pie, cookies and ice cream for dessert one day, sauce and prepare the chicken on the next day.
My Dad invited my brother and nephew for dinner, which he truly enjoys having both his kids in one room on very rare occasions. We knew my nephew was working, but my brother was going to join us.
I was getting ready to prepare the dinner, my brother (whom by the way is in recovery from drug abuse. What do you call a former drug user who is like a dry drunk?), who was invited to come for 5 and we would eat at 6 still hadn’t arrived. No sign of him at 5, 5:15, 5:30. My Dad texted him to see if he was on his way. My dad called and left a message. Of course we were more than a little concerned that something had happened to him.
We ended up eating later than hoped, but really it was no big deal. Everything was prepared to perfection and my dad was overflowing with compliments like “outstanding” and “restaurant quality”. After dinner my dad tried my brother one more time, and finally awoke him from his sleep at 7:30 in the evening. He claimed he thought the dinner was the next night, and quickly followed it up with “but I fell asleep”.
You see, this would have been considered a terrible misunderstanding if this was the first time something like this had happened, but it most certainly wasn’t. Sometimes he will arrive, only to leave moments after doing so after experiencing a panic attack from being out of his apartment. Oftentimes he will cancel at the very last minute claiming he has stomach issues and can’t leave the house. Most often however, if his son is unable to join him, it is highly unlikely that my brother will venture out. We knew ahead of time that my nephew was working and wouldn’t be attending dinner. It took my dad several messages with my brother stating the correct date and time that dinner would be served.
So, it was not to my surprise that my brother didn’t show, but it was to my disappointment. You see, being the ‘good girl’ in this victim of divorce, I now get to anticipate what story he will tell my mom and how it will turn into him being misunderstood and of course “poor brother”. While my mom and brother haven’t seen each other in 3 years, it is my Dad who is always the bad guy for not calling ‘enough’. For not attempting to see him ‘enough’. My Dad is the most responsible, dutiful man I have met. He has balanced a life with his wife along with his son who has left years of strife and financial ruin in his wake. My Dad has bailed my brother out more than my mom will ever know. My Dad has made more attempts to visit with my brother than she will ever know. He has been invited to dinners and bailed more often than he has stayed. But my mom will never know these things because my brother will only tell my mom the times he has felt wronged. Whether that is the reality or not. The reason for this? My brother needs to be pitied for some reason. He needs to live an existence of people feeling sorry for him, and possibly that he is owed something: reparation? An excuse for not improving his own lot in life? I have no idea. But for 53 years it has been something I have had to live with and somehow there is always a subversive message that it is my responsibility to make things better. This time? Well, when my mom asked if my brother was at dinner and I soberly declared he did not show up, that he thought it was the next day and then he was asleep, and how disappointed I was to have gone through the effort of making a nice meal, along with preparing extra to send along a doggy bag for my brother and nephew. My mom’s response: Did you take your brother food then? What in the actual......?????
My reaction in the old days would have been the opposite of helpful. It would have ended in so many terrible ways had I had a few glasses of wine in me. My indignance and anger would have erupted and I would have likely lashed out with some defensive remarks that would have fallen on deaf ears. Because my mom would hear it as my defending my Dad (whom she has great animosity for), and not defending myself. This time, this sober time, I simply said "No. Absolutely not. I put it in the freezer for Dad and we mad the 3 hour drive home to start dinner for my husband".
The indignance from my younger daughter and husband after my mom left was so touching. Their fierce loyalty was felt so deeply, I literally wept. I felt so much love BECAUSE I wasn’t feeling irrational anger. It was the gift of a lifetime. Thank you chicken parmesan.