Over a decade ago, before I remarried, I met a man who would become one of my closest friends. He lived a couple hours away from me, but that was no roadblock for us because we felt like kindred spirits from the start. We dated, he moved here, and were in a relationship for about two years. I think looking back over all my relationships in life, he was one of the two closest to my heart. I could share anything with him and we were so similar in many ways. He was just a sweet, giving man and he treated me so well. In the end, we did go our separate ways and lost touch. A couple of years ago he got back in touch with me and we rekindled a friendship... not on the same level of intimacy as before, but as dear friends.
He was a large man... about 450 pounds when we first met. Because of this, he developed some serious health problems, including diabetes and several heart attacks. This year, he passed away. It was hard for me to cope with, even though we weren't living near each other at the time. Somehow, all the memories of our closeness flooded back and I felt the deep loss of no longer having him in my life. I still do.
If you've been reading my blog lately, you may have noticed a lot of talk about potato chips. I mean, I've always liked them, but I feel almost addicted lately. I've been eating them a LOT more; in fact, I think I have eaten more chips and dip over the past two months than I have in three years prior! A bowl a day, almost. And it was such a draw of *need.* Almost emotional. And yesterday it dawned on me what the potato chips are really about.
They're about a man I loved. They're an emotional throwback to the days I used to take my kids and drive to visit him, and we'd have friends over and sit around the table playing board games and eating chips and dip. One of the first times I went to see him and he broke out the potato chips, I offered to make some dip. I made that kind where you mix sour cream with onion soup mix and let it sit in the fridge a while. When he tried it, he said "Wow, this is great! I can't believe you can make such a good dip from those two ingredients!" So I made it every time I went up there, and often when we were together. Yeah, he and I ate a lot of chips and dip together, playing games, laughing, listening to music, and talking about all our hopes and dreams.
We talked about having a child together. It was something we both wanted. But after two years together when he found out he was unable to father a child, the relationship fell apart for us. He was depressed and disappointed, and I was upset. We both had shared our dreams of wanting a daughter, and it seemed now it could never happen. We grew apart. Eventually he was in a relationship with a woman who had a young daughter, and I remarried and had my own little girl.
Now that he's gone, I think about that closeness we once shared. It was a very unique, trusting relationship based on true friendship. I sometimes felt like he was my twin in a male body; we often knew what each other was thinking.
It's no secret that I have used food before to feel closer to my loved ones who are gone. I used to eat certain foods that I remembered my parents eating, or that reminded me of people I used to share those foods with. I've tried to be aware of those feelings and consciously choose *not* to eat, say, a Tastykake when I am missing my mom or a Reuben sandwich when I wish my Dad was still alive. Instead, I have worked on feeling the feelings and finding other things that connected us when they were alive, like certain music or activities or looking at old photographs. I've even written letters to them sometimes, telling them how much they meant to me. It's a better way of processing than just eating stuff to feel those old feelings again.
I didn't even realize what I was doing with the chips until now. It dawned on me yesterday when I was thinking about my (two) past relationships with very large men, and why they were as big as they were, and why they never lost the weight... and why I was so comfortable with them. I think it was because I relate, just like I relate to the people on that reality TV show, My 600 Pound Life and shed tears for them. But that's another post for another day. Anyway, I thought about all we shared, and how much I missed him, and found myself dishing up some chips and dip. I stopped. "Wow," I thought. "I am using chips to feel closer to him. This is not healthy." And then I sat down and thought about all the other, more meaningful things we shared:
a love for my sons
the Garth Brooks concert we went to together
playing board games on lazy Saturdays
watching old movies on his projection TV
the desire to be open, to be kind, to make a difference
how he helped me get a German Shepherd puppy that I always wanted
the front porch of my house that he built for me
and so many, many memories.
I can feel close to him by listening to our music. I pulled out the dusty board games that I have rarely played since he left, and started playing Scrabble again with my kids. I look at my dogs now and know he re-opened that door for me, and every time I walk down the stairs of the front porch I smile a little as I remember him out there working with his hammer and saw, happy because he loved doing things for me. I can honor his memory in a way that doesn't cause me harm... without food... so that I do not meet the same weight-related fate and early death. I can remember him, without potato chips, and learn to mourn in a healthier way.
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