Ah. Chicken soup. Comforting. Healing. Makes everything all better. I’ve never been a fan of it.
Of course, I have never had true homemade chicken soup. In fact, I can’t recall ever eating chicken until I was nearly an adult. It just wasn’t something we ever had for dinner – unless it was fried chicken – and I do not eat meat that still has a bone attached to it. *Shudder*. We eat a lot of chicken now (boneless, of course) but chicken soup just isn’t a part of my soul.
I used to spend a lot of time with my grandmother when I was a little girl. She grew up with hordes of brothers and sisters and, I’m sure, lots of farm animals. She told me that when she was a little girl it was her job to pluck the feathers off of the chickens after someone else had killed it. It was a vision I tried to push out of my mind. I’m pretty sensitive about animals in general, so I could never be one to raise my own food let alone kill it. I’m more of a “go to the grocery store and pick up some prepackaged, hormone-filled meat” kind of girl. Anyway, I cannot recall where we were or how old I was at the time, but I remember a chicken running around in the back yard. My grandma caught it and – before I could register anything -Â had broken its neck. She put it on the ground and I watched as it wobbled around, trying to find its balance, with the head flopping to one side before finally falling over dead. I’m sure my jaw was hanging open. I clearly didn’t see that coming. Chicken was off the menu for me.
So what comforts me? Something has to take the place of chicken soup, right? Well, writing is soothing for me. I can lose myself in stories and memories. I try to purge stinging emotions by writing about them, which can be quite cathartic. Letting it go. Making room for new and improved memories. Sorting through old pictures can have a similar therapeutic quality as well.
My brother, Scotty, sent me a photo album yesterday. For those of you who can’t remember my family history (I can’t say that I blame you), Scotty is my half-brother since we share a father. We both call our dad “Uncle Dan” since he was never really much of a father to either one of us. Anyway, my brother and I are fairly close. Whenever we get on the phone with each other we’re on for hours because we just crack each other up. We can hold entire conversations based on movie quotes alone (last night we did “Steel Magnolias” in its entirety). It’s a defense mechanism, I’m sure.
So, Scotty sent me this photo album filled with pictures of me from when I was a baby. Evidently, Uncle Dan had given the album to Scotty a couple of years ago at a family member’s funeral, saying that he didn’t want the pictures anymore. There were some of my sister, Cassi, a few of my mom and dad together, some of my grandma and grandpa, and then a ton of me as a baby. I had never seen most of these pictures and had no idea they even existed. I was always under the impression that there just weren’t a lot of pictures of me as a baby… it was a stressful time. Uncle Dan went to Vietnam during my mom’s pregnancy with me but had returned home by the time I was born due to his multiple injuries.
Looking through the old photo books brought me comfort. Seeing pictures of my mom smiling and my grandma holding me and my sister playing… it was fun. As I continued to flip through the aging pages, I realized that there weren’t many of me with my dad. Finally, I found two pictures of the two of us. In one, I’m about 2 weeks old, asleepÂ in a baby seat. He’s sitting next to me on the front step, hand on the seat (not actually touching me) with a look of “what do I do now?” on his face. Then, the other picture is of me as a toddler, hanging onto his lap as he cleans a pistol.
And that pretty much sums up our relationship. My parents divorced when I was five. We saw each other over the years but ultimately, he knows nothing about me. The last time I physically saw him was in 1999 – at a funeral. We have no contact. He doesn’t know my children. I have no plans for him to know my children. He’s totally lame.
So, for him to give away a photo album filled with pictures of his daughter as an infant, well, that’s pretty telling of what sort of man he is. And what really makes me angry is that I am faced with losing my son – a life I so desperately want to watch unfold – watch him grow up and live his life, make mistakes, pursue happiness, do all that a normal, healthy person should get to do. And that poor man, the man we call Uncle Dan, chose to not know his kids at all. He has purged his life of all reminders that he had a daughter. It’s hard for me to not internalize that, but I just have to move forward knowing that I AM a good mom. I love my kids. I always will. And, if I happen to lose my sweet Ben, I will take comfort in knowing that he NEVER doubted my love for him. That he was the light of my life. The star on top of my Christmas tree. My purpose.
Who needs chicken soup when there’s love like that?