Thirty-three years ago, nearly to the day, this young couple met for the first time. They became fast friends. This picture was taken a month after that first introduction at a Thanksgiving party in the barracks:
Their friendship was quietly growing at the time of this photo, the last day of 1980. Then, they were still months from their first kiss. Months from the Sundays that they would wake up early and go over to the Top 5 club on Sheridan Kaserne, for breakfast. Months from the walks around post and through downtown Augsburg.
She didn’t like eggs then, steak was “okay” but not one of her faves. He loved them both.
In their first year of marriage, living in a small apartment off post, he introduced her to eggs, the way he cooked them. He’d always loved eggs, it was one of the first things he learned to cook. He mastered them as a cook in a good restaurant in his home town. The first time she bit an over easy egg he prepared for her, he knew he had her hooked.
He loved steak enough to make it for Thanksgiving of 1981. See they had no oven, but had a hibachi grill, and the Bavarian weather was surprisingly pleasant that day. She humored him and ate every bite. And her taste for steak grew slowly, steadily, perhaps in part because he enjoyed it, as it made him think of his dad, who he loved very much.
The young man carried on his dad’s tradition of t-bone steaks for dinner on Friday nights, cooked on a charcoal grill, for years. She loved the tenderloin side the most. Steak became a less common meal as the young couple grew old together. Beef in general declined, as he grew to love fish the way she did.
Through the births of their children, she followed cravings that would later emerge on the appetites of their children as they grew to adults, but they always came back around to the varied, eclectic diet they had grown to embrace together.
In early 2013, she was diagnosed with cancer. Emergency room, surgery, doctor’s office visits, gave way to chemotherapy, which sometimes sapped her strength, but never her spirit. She craved protein more and more. Eggs became a regular breakfast. Roast beef or steak or burgers frequently made the menu for dinner when the chemo was doing its worst.
Last Friday, the man took a day off to be with his lady. Something he had loved to do their entire life together, cook her breakfast, was the logical way to start this day off. “What would you like?”
“A poached egg and some hash browns would be great.”
He had an errand to run before breakfast, and he made a stop before returning. He started to set up in the kitchen. “I know you asked for a poached egg, and hash browns, but how would you like a filet mignon, an over easy egg, and hash browns instead?”
She lit up in a way he had come to know in their many years together. She lit up like that first solid meal in April of 2013, after the touch and go surgery to remove the tumor that had all but stopped her from eating. She lit up the way she did when she ate that first egg he had made for her decades before. She lit up like getting a Christmas present she never expected might come. She lit up the way people light up for a surprise birthday party (the good kind, of course.)
See, he had recalled how she’d said something about steak the night before, and he knew her well enough to know this was a craving, and that once a craving took hold in her, it had to be satisfied.
Life became more precious this year. Every meal is a celebration. Every day, whether it’s driving down Fair Oaks for a chemo treatment, or simply sitting in the living room and talking about shared and diverse passions, is a reason to be thankful.
Years and years of cooking breakfasts, first as a pro cook, then as a husband, as a father, went into making this simple breakfast, served lovingly on a paper plate (a good quality one, though.) It was a breakfast she would have rarely desired in the past, but picture perfect, for this day:
We are not in a position to force the course of events in our lives to our specifications, any more than we can change the course of our respective pasts. No, we have today, and we have now, and we have each other.
We have the people we love, and the things that bring us joy. For example, the joys of making breakfast then sharing it with a life-partner.
And that is what matters most.