But off of the topic of food.
As joyous and exciting as the holidays are, they're also secretly saddening. It's during these times we look back and reflect on the lives that we wish were present physically, and not just spiritually, or in memory. It's during this time of the year, that I get particularly sad about my grandfather, my Bay-Bay, no longer being with me. I can't speak his name, or think back to then, or what could have been for now, without becoming flustered and teary-eyed, voice crackling, and tears eventually falling. There's never been a man I've adored or loved as much as him. No man's memory has ever bought tears to my eyes but his so easily. His smile and laughter, his denim blue hat and staple white button up shirt, tucked into the waist of his pants and it sat snug over his protruding belly - are missed more than I could possibly express in words or in actions.
I was 9 when he passed. He died of a massive heart attack, and from what I'd been told, on the steps of a friend. He was and has always been my favorite man. And it's because of this, my mother, step-father, and the rest of the family, had chosen as a collective, not to tell me about his passing until after the service. Until after the logistics had been taken care of. I've always felt some type of way about that collective decision, because I'd never been given the chance, the opportunity to say good-bye. Granted I've said and say it in my dreams, whisper it to the skies above when I think about him, and when the tears fall so easily down my cheeks - it's just not the same.
It's due to his death that writing became my safe haven; the safest place on earth. But it's also due to his death in particular that holidays just aren't the same. Nor are birthdays. Or graduations. Or life-altering moments like the birth of my now 2-year-old sister or when my Grandma had to have brain surgery, my elementary or high school graduations, acceptance into college, or when I moved into my own place. Granted, he's everpresent because that's just how Bay-Bay is, it's never been the same.
As a child, I recall sitting on his back while we watched Star Trek or V (he loved Sci-fi flicks, and I've never been able to watch them since) while I dolled his hair up with barrettes and ballies. We'd take random trips to the ice cream parlor on Ridge Avenue. He'd let me help him clean out his white van with the burgandy interior. Or, he'd just sit, with me on his lap. It's because of him I fell in love with Red Lobster's cheddar bay biscuits and with Red Lobster in general. He was my Bay-Bay, and I was his Nurl-Nurl (and forever will be).
Courtesy of he and my Grandmother, I was spoiled, rotten, and there wasn't much of anything to do about it. The first grand, the first girl, I was lavished with gifts and candy, movies and late nights watching sci-fi flics with my favorite, main man. My squeaky cackle and his rolling, bellowing laughter always filled up whatever room we were in. My mother always says to me "Just imagine how much more spoiled you'd be if he were here". Unfortunately, just like we don't know how many licks it takes to get to the center of tootsie pop, the world may never know the full extent of my spoiled rotteness. From birth, when doctors deemed my life to be over before it had even began, this man, held and nurtured me from birth, daily. There was never a day that his love was not shown.
I was a little girl being shown what love was all about. What it felt and sound like. Was being taught as a child that when love is gone, however it departs, there's no replacing the void left behind.
It's been 14 years.
And holidays, life has never been the same.
That void, that hole in my heart has never scabbed over to heal.
As children, we're taught "I Love You" as a part of speech. But we don't understand the action, the feat, what it looks and feels like until later in life. And if we're lucky enough, someone pivotal enough, important enough, loving enough, like my Bay-Bay teaches it to us in simplistic ways that are easily digested for us as children. And as we age, it becomes clearer to us just what they were teaching us. And that's what hurts the most: we've known love since before our birth, but somewhere between that first breath and adulthood, we lose or have lost the language of love.
Lucky me, I had a man who as big, black, and chunky as he was, taught me just what love was and what love is so that as an adult, I could understand it, I could digest it just as easily as I had when he let me style his coily, soft black hair or say his nickname for me: Nurl Nurl. That, is love.
Lucky me, from birth to age 9, and even now at 23, that man to whom I hold so dearly and so tightly to my heart and my memories, loved and loves me the way love is supposed to be done.
So while you stuff your face this holiday season with turkey, stuffing, and baked mac and cheese, sweet potatoe pie, cheesecake, and egg nog, realize, that this is all about love and nothing else. While death is promised, life isn't guaranteed, LOVE, sits cradled somewhere between the two - and it's up to us, to recognize it, and be willing to share it with another.