To say that the last month or so has been a bit of a blur would be a wry understatement - but it's still been punctuated by a few memorable meals.
A few days after our wonderful Hopleaf party my brother William underwent emergency life and limb saving surgery. While he was still in the excruciating throes of recovery, my mother was also hospitalized. She suffered a debilitating dizzy spell which we feared might be another stroke.
With some sit-comical coordination we've managed to keep my mother's hospitalization a secret from my brother. Don't worry - he doesn't read my blog.
They're both relatively fine for now. My brother still faces at least two more operations within the next six months and won't be able to walk until the end of this year. Unlike me he's always been athletic. On the night of our Hopleaf party he was coaching his best friends' son's Little League team.
I can't say my brother and I rushed to the emergency room when this all first started because we stopped along the way for lunch. We knew that despite his increasing pain we'd be waiting for hours so we decided to fortify ourselves. We shared a car cuisine combo of cornmeal-breaded catfish, wings, crinkle-cut fries, and hot sauce. Hot sauce is a non-negotiable condiment to Southern fried food but even more so for my brother and I who are hot sauce and spicy condiment afficianados.
That meal was in stark contrast to what we had the night after surgery. He was on a clear liquid diet the first night. His dinner allowed a packet of powdered chicken soup base with a bowl of hot water, apple juice, cranberry juice, lemon Italian ice, black tea, green gelatin, and a pitcher of cold water. He was only able to sip water through the ubiquitous bended elbow straw that I had to guide to his lips while his pain scale hovered around 9 and 10 out of 10.
I'd told my brother before surgery that I'd spend the night but he still worried ironically that it was too uncomfortable for me. I assured him that it was far better than the many hours I've flown Coach - plus I was able to raid the patient pantry for the only dinner I could stomach myself - small reassuring cartons of chocolate milk and packages of graham crackers.
My brother's first homemade meal request was my mother's shrimp fried rice. As soon as she herself was released from the hospital, she was back to her own shenanigans - stir-frying up a storm as if to meet a busy service rush. William's best friends brought him a backyard grilled steak dinner with roasted asparagus and Chicago-style hot dogs. I've been supplying him with good cheeseburgers and enormous chocolate chip cookies.
At our Hopleaf party I also shared the news that I'd be taking my parents back to China for their first return visit ever. After a lifetime of cajoling, the trip was finally spurred on by my father's own hospitalization for his inexplicable dizzy spell last fall. Our trip to China was to have been during the entire month of May. Our trip has been postponed.
In the meantime we'll just do what we've always done. We'll transport and restore ourselves with good food, family, and friends - meal by meal.