Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Years ago our kids and I used to mark his birthday by cooking up his favorite meal: veal cutlets. Frank loved a good veal cutlet. Maybe, over time, he would have seen the cruelty in the veal cutlet, the little huts the baby cows are confined to and so forth (though, his name was Vitello, so maybe not). For our short life together (three years of a marriage that produced two children), we'd celebrate August 1st with eggs Benedict and mimosas upon waking. Jesus, talk about your high cholesterol food choices! Ah, but we were young. What did we know of mortality? What did we know about clogged arteries and politically sensitive eating and the raising of children? We were just out of the snorting coke years. The selling pot years. We had menial minimum-wage jobs in food service. We delivered the Sunday paper together, him--flinging the Arizona Republic from the back of a copper-colored pickup at four in the morning, me--pregnant and disheveled at the wheel.
What would Frank Vitello be like as a 50-year old? Would we have stayed married? Would we have churned out more kids? Where would we be living? When he died, we'd just moved back to New York State. That day they pulled his lifeless, smashed up body from a pile of crumpled Mustang, I was, again, big with baby. My daughter, who was technically a fetus when her father was killed, does not eat veal anymore. Or wheat, for that matter.Would her father be giving her shit for her gluten-free ways? Would he raz her about the tattoo on her ankle? Frank liked a good talk radio show. Would he be voting for Romney, then?
And what would he have to say about his son's chosen career as a poker player? "Why, at your age," he might say, "I was holding down four jobs and digging out the septic tank in preparation for my second child." Or maybe he'd be all proud and amazed that his son is living the life, rolling with the big boys. Doing well with the cards. In reality though, all he could say to his son today is, "Why, when I was your age, I was dead."
I remember my first husband's laugh. The way his eyes crinkled when he was amused. He liked a good, stout ale. He'd approve, I think, that I'm now married to a guy who brews his own. Sometimes I imagine us all at the dining table: my dead husband, my alive one, my ex and my children. One big meld of family sitting amid steaming piles of disparate food: tofu, beef, sauerkraut, pizza. If I could only be a fly on the wall while my various husbands discussed global warming, college sports teams, the upcoming presidential election, raising chickens.
The men. The babies. Life.
Happy birthday, Frankie. If I had a kitchen, I'd cook you a meal.