The empty chair at the dining room table
Before deployment, those two cans wouldn't have lived to see the next day. Dad would have made four tuna salad sandwiches on the spot and then eyed the rest longingly, asking "Are you going to eat that?"
I guess I forgot that I'm the only one in the house now who will eat tuna salad. Just like I forget when I load the rice cooker that the person who consumes the bulk of it isn't around.
And just like I still have to stop and think many nights about how many plates to set at the dining room table. A table the guys often resist, because it reminds them.
Can we eat in the kitchen, they'll ask. The dining room doesn't feel right without Daddy here.
Most of the time I give in, and long-term that's a bad thing. I've also defaulted to the standard kid-pleasing fare simply because there are some days when I can't stand one more battle. Spaghetti and pizza, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese - it's all homemade and balanced with fruits and vegetables, but it gets monotonous after a while.
Monotony has been good of late. Most days, I still can't get past the memories of the dining room and the pretty plates either. I recall evenings when we were indeed a family, no matter how many times Big Guy's habit of propping his chair on two legs threatening the glass cabinet behind him or Boots' tendency to dump his milk threatened the carpet below.
I miss scouring the Web for new recipes and knowing that, as much as the guys might growl, Dad would eat with an enthusiasm that often convinced the kids to try a bite.
As much as I would sometimes growl about the cleanup - how can something that took an hour to prepare and almost as long to clear be devoured in 20 minutes? - dinner was worth it because that was when we came together. Scheduling vagaries separated us for other meals - but not at dinner.
I know that the longer I let it go, the harder the habit will be to break. I know I've already undone months of progress at getting the guys to try new foods by waiting this long. Yet, it's been three weeks since we last ate in the dining room, and we did it only then because Dad was home briefly.
We're having pizza tonight, in the kitchen. Maybe next week I'll try harder.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.