Finally this realization: death does not end the relationship. Ok, ok, it does end the ability to make new memories with Aunt Amy, but the discoveries about the relationship, the unfolding of things, keeps rolling right along. For instance; the other night I was watching Chopped. One of the contestants said his appearance on the show was in honor of his aunts who had ladled into him a love of food and cooking. I teared up imagining him as a little him in the kitchen with a bunch of wild, cackling aunts stirring up pots of yellow rice salted with a few life lessons. Just then, my heart turned a corner. I thought of my own Aunt Laverne who I never, ever think of as my aunt because she is my Mama. She raised me in lieu of my biological mother thus she will always be my real mother. But she was my aunt. My troubled, laughing, camera-shy, freckly, afroed, cry-behind-the-sunglasses aunt. Just like the tv chef’s aunt except she reached a little further into my life and became my mama. That’s so beautiful, right? That she would choose to graduate and claim a higher degree in my heart. That she could have been just my aunt, but she decided to be so much more. Fell in love with me when I was six months old and hung in there with my foolishness, selfishness and craziness until she died when I was 24. I was a grad student at Syracuse when she died (thank you for letting me share this with you). One night, I was frying a thick, cheap steak and I did not know I was crying (because crying was all I did that year) until I saw teardrops sizzling in the skillet. God, I was so messed up. Wouldn’t it be pretty to say, right here, that Mama taught me how to cook? It would fit so neatly into this blog about Chopped and cooking and being taught to love food by a woman who knew how to slice bell pepper then as a fingernail . Alas, not so much. My mama cooked because she had to. Threw countless roasts into an oven just as sick of her overdone meats as we were. No. I learned to love because she taught me how. Nolan, Noah and Noni are the beneficiaries of the tenderness she poured over my life like syrup warmed. Sometimes she would look at me as she walked by and scrunch her face up like I love you so much, see? Sometimes she’d be all crusty bread on the outside then close her bedroom door and cry over something dumb I’d done. No one’s ever told me that and I’m not sure how I know, but I do. Now that I’m a mother, I know all about secret tears and cold water splashes before stepping from behind a locked door. Here, Sweetheart. This is what I want to say to you: you will continue to grow in the love you had/have for your lost loved one. The cancer took her, but not your relationship with her. That, thanks to you, will go on and on. Each day you will discover something new about her. About you guys. The unfolding is never-ending. A pot of boiling water, leaping over, under and around itself. She came to share herself with you and that will never die. Bon apetit.
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