In these weeks following my father's death 'normal' life has been suspended: my family, work, friends and social commitments have all been put on standby as I come to terms with the fact that he's gone and help my mother start to pick up the pieces of her life. A life shattered by the loss of her soul-mate of 50 years and by a battle against cancer which consumed the last two and a half.
Last week, when we were still reeling from shock, my mother, sister and I improvised each day as best as we could. Meals were a mish mash of things we filled the fridge with as a result of aimless and hurried shopping at the local super. As my sister and I spent the best part of the day sifting through papers and talking to bank managers, pension fund employees and accountants, my mother grieved. Her household, usually run with military precision hobbled along in fits and starts. We stayed in our pjs until afternoon, beds were left unmade. We sat down to unsatisfying, tasteless meals whenever we remembered we were hungry and moaned to each other about the lack of 'anything nice' available. We managed a few OK meals but on the whole scored pretty poorly in the 'eat what you want' and 'enjoy' departments.
This week as we geared up for another few days of administrative juggling, my mother's strength and determination surfaced again.
"Right," she announced "we need to make a plan so we don't end up eating crap like last week.". She marshaled me into the kitchen, whipped out her notepad and pen and started firing questions and jotting things down. In under 10 minutes, we had worked out what meals we would be at home for, what we fancied eating, what she had in her Mary Poppins-like freezer and what 'extras' we needed to fill in the gaps. We had a rough sketch of the next 4 days' meals and a shopping list. We chose quick, family favourites like chicken with peas and rice, basil minestrone and thawed some of my Mum's delicious aubergines in tomato sauce to have with pasta. We filled the fridge with ricotta, pecorino and cured meats for lunches and lots of juicy tomatoes, crunchy fennel and spicy radishes to have with salad. I made sure, this time, that I got all the ingredients I needed for the rum baba.
As I busied myself at the computer and on the phone, my mother got in the car and drove to the nicer supermarket down the road to stock up. I'm not going to say that the next four days were a blissful succession of gourmet meals but eating food that tasted nice and that I fancied did make life a little easier.
Although it seems impossible to imagine a time when my father's absence might feel 'normal', I am - two weeks on - starting to see glimpses of 'normality'. They remind me that we are resilient and resourceful beings. That life does go on.