At 7:13 a.m., crack two eggs into a bowl. Their shells shatter silently beneath my father’s New Yawk snarl.
Gimme the butter. And get the cheese, will ya.
He is dead three years. Lung cancer stole his voice, then his life.
Slap butter into the pan, set the burner to low.
My twelve-year-old son is still asleep. He never sets his alarm. I start cooking knowing I’ll abandon the stove to rush upstairs and wake him. I should wake him first, then ignite the burner. Better, I should deal with his alarm clock crap. Instead, I execute the definition of crazy—do the same thing every day expecting it to change.
Whisk the eggs and schlep upstairs.
Outside his door, I remember to use my soft voice, because apples fall close to their trees.
Would he want to be roused by anger? I didn’t.
When I was twelve, staticky cable weather forecasts shrieked through our split-level. My mother buzzed around adjusting her slip and “putting her face on.” Even as I lingered in bed, I could see the forced smile she wore to quell my father’s baffling ire. He thundered from everywhere.
Wake up, will ya! Get outta that bed!
He never made me cheese omelets. Neither did my mother. They worked full-time which meant having no time. Next door, Nana would toast me an English muffin and let me sip her Sanka. I liked Nana’s house because no one ever screamed.
“Buddy, time to get up.” I rub my son’s back. “Omelet’s cooking.”
“With yellow cheese?” His pubescent voice is a man-child grumble. He likes the cheese omelets Grandpa used to make.
Run downstairs. Pour whisked eggs into the pan. Watch them spread to a slippery yellow circle.
Gimme the cheese now. Hold on—don’t gimme all the slices at once!
When we visited my father’s house, why did I have to cook the omelets he offered to make? He’d bark orders from the stove, brows knitted, something detonating behind his blue-grey eyes. His final photos capture slumped shoulders. A palpable ache. The beneficiary of trauma. His father was a yeller, a puncher too.
Halve three pieces of thinly sliced yellow American cheese. Set them in the middle of the nearly firm circle. Fold the sides in. Flip it over to melt the cheese—the way my son likes it, the way Grandpa made it—then slide it onto a paper plate.
My son booms down the stairwell; booming things make me flinch.
Set the plate, with a fork, on the granite island.
“Thanks, ma,” he whispers.
When my father lost his voice, the wounded twelve-year-old in me thought, You can’t yell at me anymore.
Now, she misses the strangest things.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Jennifer C.