Listening to Audrey talk to herself in her crib before she naps- hopefully. “Audrey appa died,” she just said.
She has started referring to you as “Audrey appa” instead of just “appa.” I’m not sure why. It makes me sadder- if that’s possible. It sounds removed from you. Instead of “dad,” you’re now “Audrey’s dad.” But also, it sounds at the same time more personal to her in that she recognizes not everyone’s appa died, just hers.
The counselor tells me it’s really a “gift,” (ha) that she is so smart and aware because that means she actually is grieving and some of that work is beginning- rather than all of it having to come later as she develops.
It’s been a long morning. Since our play date was cancelled due to the other two babies having colds, we had an open morning, but since we were running low on groceries, I thought it’d be fun to take Audrey grocery shopping and give us an outing. The last time I took her to Trader Joe’s was on July 4th, two days before you died. I looked through their flyer yesterday and there was a ton of appealing frozen items. I feel relieved to see that if I need to, we can live on Trader Joe’s frozen food.
While we sat at breakfast though, I leafed through my recipe book to try to remember what I used to make in this season. It was difficult. All of the recipes I’d always picked out and tried were always connected to you Dan- things that you liked. The book itself was being carefully put together with the intention of feeding a family of four hopefully for many years. It was all a bit contrived yes, because domesticity doesn’t come as naturally to me as I’d like to think, but I was trying. We were to have pancakes on Saturday mornings, lots of good soups including some Korean ones I’d mastered in the winter, and lots of fresh, light meals in the summer- with basil and tomatoes and other seasonal things. I had divided my recipe book by season.
For such a svelte guy, you could really eat a huge amount of food. So I had to learn to cook a lot. Often it was a source of arguments because I’d spend hours cooking a meal, and you’d eat very quickly, ask for seconds, and be done. There’d be no leftovers. It became a real point of tension at one point and I realized that especially in Korean culture but really I think in all cultures, food really is love- and I was being stingy. I felt overwhelmed at the task of coming up with new meals every day or wanted to have leftovers to pack for your lunch. In the last year, you didn’t eat quite as much. You said you just couldn’t eat the same way anymore. I felt like it was my fault and would beg you to eat seconds. “I know you can’t be full- please, I made a lot!”
Who knew looking through my recipes could be so emotionally draining, but oh, there’s the borscht recipe I got from the Russian family I was a nanny for that you loved at first, and then I made a few too many times. There’s the recipe from my mom for zucchini bread which you said your mom used to make too and you absolutely loved because it wasn’t too sweet. There’s the recipe for soon doo boo chigae with my notes from each time I made it and made slight adjustments until it tasted just right. You were so proud I learned how to make that and would always brag about it to your mom.
So, after a quick visit from a friend, we headed out to Trader Joes. It was relatively uneventful. I filled the three bags I brought because I have to carry them myself now- and then I dropped them off at the building lobby before parking the car and walking back with Audrey.
That’s when I started to look for my keys to the apartment. Nowhere- not in my purse, or my coat pocket. I have never lost my keys- ever.
I got the spare from the concierge and went upstairs with Audrey and the groceries to put away the perishable stuff. Then…all the way back to the car and back to Trader Joe’s because I didn’t find them in the car. I didn’t really get a chance to look around Trader Joe’s as much as I should’ve because a woman who worked there looked for me and volunteered to come help look in my car- in hindsight- that was really nice of her. We looked and couldn’t find them. Then I told her, maybe as an excuse because I seemed so frazzled and disorganized, that I’d just lost my husband- I think I said a couple of months ago- even though it’s a few- I feel like I’ll always be saying that because I don’t want it to get that far away and I don’t feel any different than I did and don’t want people to assume I’m “better”.
She said she was so sorry and asked me how he died. I feel like if I said he had cancer or in a car accident people would continue, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” but when I tell them- they literally gasp every time. She took my phone number incase the keys turned up and before she walked away and I strapped Audrey back in the car, she looked at me and said, “You know, a lot of times the worst things end of being for the best, at least in my life,” and she walked away. I’m not sure how I was supposed to take that. Did she mean the lost keys? Or my husband?