The year my father died, all I wrote was three essays about his death. And then they sat--I couldn't bear to revise any of them for a long time.
Finally, after years passed, I took out two of them and worked on them. The third I still can't face.
The Dirty Spoon, a radio show about food, has published one of those essays, "Tracking Every Spoonful," and aired it on their August 2 broadcast. They've also posted the audio of the professional reader in their Episode 13 podcast (my essay starts just before the 47-minute mark). The essay describes the time near my father's death when we were trying to get him to eat.
As it happened, the day it was first broadcast, I was on the road to Southern California. We stopped for sandwiches in the high desert. While waiting, I checked my email, which contained a message about the essay going live. I clicked the link to the essay text. As soon as I saw the illustration, I started to cry, right there in the Subway.
We got to my in-law's house about the time the broadcast started. I sat on the bed, listening it stream on my computer. My essay was last. This time, I was prepared for the tears. The reader read my words beautifully.
When we visit my husband's parents, we always bring food so that they don't have to cook for us. That morning, I'd woken up early to make a nectarine crisp from nectarines off our tree. I also brought some homemade black bean soup from our freezer So for dinner that night, I made a salad and heated up the soup while my husband warmed some jalapeno cheese bread.
At dinner, I watched my husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law enjoy the food I'd made. I reheated the crisp; the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the kitchen. As we ate it, a feeling of great contentment came over me. It was a blessing, on a day when I relived the struggle to feed my father, for me to feed my family.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, The Laurel Review, and Sou’wester.
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