Chasing Something Other Than Rabbits
Two weeks after my dad died, I drove my little Nissan Sentra over to the Four Seasons Mall and I got a job.
We'd only had about six weeks to process a cancer diagnosis before he was gone. There was no long goodbye. One day he had a headache. A few weeks later he was diagnosed. One round of chemotherapy and a couple of weeks later, he was gone.
I was a college sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro bunking up in an all girls' dorm with my closest friends living just a few feet away. It was the best of times when things were the best, but in the worst of times, the closeness suffocated me.
Sophomore year was the worst of times.
I ended my freshman year of college dating Thad but a handful of painful, hard days spent with his family, coupled with a summer of working at a camp where phone calls where sparse and letters were once a week occasions, I went back to campus longing to have dinner at the table of my high school boyfriend's family.
That last bit? Seems out of place, but it's important. Remember it.
At the time, I didn't know my dad had cancer growing in his lungs or that it had already spread to his brain.
And I most definitely did not know that in six months, I would be a fatherless daughter.
But as I returned to campus for my sophomore year, I felt that I had a cavern inside of me a mile deep that I intuitively knew Thad's family would never fill. I don't know how or why I instinctively knew that I would someday need or want them to fill a gap I did not know was coming. I just knew it and the knowing it made me look at Thad with a different kind seeing.
None of this would have mattered if I had not returned to campus knowing that I would eventually marry Thad. But I knew I would. I would marry him and his family would become my family.
I began classes weighing in at about ninety-six pounds, sweating, wet in my gym shorts, sports bra, and Nikes. I know because our college gym had a digital scale outside the running track and I weighed myself twice a day that year. Ninety-six pounds was my lightest and my lightest was right about the time the Bradford pear trees lining the path between my dorm and the gym began to lose their leaves. That fall, I walked the campus in what felt like paper-thin skin covering a stick thin frame hiding a hole the size of the deepest longing you can imagine.
But I could not name the longing. It just was.
I went home for Christmas break and although I cannot remember the sequence of events I remember the doctors had found a tumor in my dad's brain that they planned to remove. I was working part-time at the mall when the cancer was discovered in his lungs.
I'll never forget how I got the news.
I came in the back door from a late night at work and found my mom curled up in my dad's lap, sobbing. They were in the recliner by the woodstove and when I walked in, my mom turned to me and said the oddest thing.
You look so pretty.
And then she said,
When they went in to do the pre-op scans, they found cancer in your dad's lungs. They cannot operate.
I do not remember any other part of the Christmas break except that my dad felt the need to buy me a more reliable car so that I could come home as often as I wanted. Looking back, I think he knew the prognosis was grim. He was preparing for his leaving.
Six weeks later, my dad died.
And I returned to school with a car and a name for the cavernous hole in my body that I'd been concealing under my skin.
This isn't a story about my dad, although when I sat down to write this morning, I thought I was going to write about him.
It's a story about needing a dad and wanting a dad and trying to make peace with the ring of longing that encircles everything, always reminding you that you are a fatherless daughter.
It's also a story about spending half your adult life hoping to be adopted.
And I guess you could say that it's about giving thanks for the deep, deep longing gnawing away at your insides because that deep, deep longing is the way you ultimately come to Jesus for fulfilment, for wholeness, for belonging, for true adoption.
Two years ago, on a whim, I took the little girls inside Chick-fil-a for a quick lunch. We usually run through the drive-thru but on this day, we paused from the hurrying about and went inside. We were in line when I saw a couple of familiar faces. They grinned and waved and I grinned and waved right back.
And after a while, I felt a heavy arm reach around my shoulder and pull me into a daddy kind of hug. I folded myself into his side and leaned in close and was transported back to 1996.
I waited to cry until I got in the car.
Any good writer knows that writing anything for public consumption
should add value to the person consuming the words.
I agree that's true, but who are we to say what adds value and what does not?
And it's in that vein that I want you to know that I'm writing here for the fun of it because writing adds value to my life and if I'm adding value to my own life, I can't help but show up to my everyday life more alive and whole.
LOWCOUNTRY HOPPIN' JOHN
Week 3 Shopping List
If you're cooking along with us, you can find this week's recipe on page 16 of Sean Brock's cookbook, Heritage. Hoppin' John is comfort food. It's a hug in a bowl. It's inexpensive. It's filling. It's southern at it's finest. My whole crowd loves it. I usually serve it with pork chops or pork tenderloin and collards.
Brock's recipe calls for two heirloom grade products: Sea Island Red Peas and Carolina Gold Rice. I ordered from Anson Mills and it took about two weeks for my order to come in. Worth the wait and the extra money, people. The best quality rice I've ever eaten. If you're planning to cook all the recipes with me, go ahead and order some grits, farro, and cornmeal. You won't regret it.
Simple, straightforward recipe.
Here's what you need to buy:
Chicken Stock, 2 quarts
Fresh Thyme, 10 sprigs
Garlic, 2 cloves
White onions, 2
Celery, 3-4 stalks