I stopped at the grocery store this morning to pick up some things for dad. The store was crowded with shoppers getting ready for the Memorial Day Holiday. I passed some packages of Italian hot sausages and almost bought some. I was thinking about how dad used to cook them on the grill for family picnics.
When I got to dad’s assisted living facility, my son and grandson were already there. Grandson “George” was being shy today but noticed I had my iPad and wanted to watch his videos on it. I mentioned the hot sausage and asked dad if he remembered grilling them. He smiled and said yes.
On the way home I thought about how I am already missing some of the times I spent with dad and mom each summer. When they were living in their northern home, dad would often cook the dinner meat on the grill. He used charcoal, but not charcoal lighters and fancy cook in the bag products that people use today. (And surely not like those who have fancy gas grills for cooking.)
Dad had the old-fashioned barbeque grill like we had when I was a child. He fashioned a “chimney” out of a coffee can and used a can opener (church key type) to make holes all along the bottom in a pattern of triangles. He put this chimney in the center of the grill and then added crushed newspapers about 3 inches deep. On top of the newspapers he added the charcoal. Then he lit it with a match through one of the holes at the bottom of the chimney. The newspaper flamed up and burned for a few minutes.
Then slowly the charcoal would burn. Sometimes it would start out smoky but eventually the coals all became red hot and then white. Dad would sit out there for an hour or more, just getting those coals ready to cook. Meanwhile mom would be in the kitchen, getting things ready. She would have a plate covered with the hot sausage links and another with hamburgers ready to grill. Sometimes there would be hot dogs as well. When dad gave the signal, mom brought out the meats ready to cook.
Then she would get the beans warmed up and take out her special potato salad. She made the best potato salad with parsley and chopped carrots in it as well as grated onions, salt and pepper and of course, some mayonnaise and even a little vinegar. I still don’t make a potato salad as good as my mom’s though I know how she did it. Mine just isn’t the same!
Dad would sit outside cooking and turning the meats until everything was ready and then he would bring it in the house. If it was just mom, dad and me, we would eat in the house. In the years before I retired, I used to spend 1 to 2 weeks in July with mom and dad at their northern home.
Sometimes there were family reunions (my aunts, uncles, cousins, even 2nd cousins and of course, all their children) in the yard and everyone would eat outside at the picnic table or with little tables beside us. Somehow in my memory it was always dad doing the cooking outside, though I do remember my uncle cooking inside when we ate at his house. The bigger picnics though tended to be at mom and dad’s home which was much larger.
We will have a much quieter holiday this year. Last year we had a large reunion at my daughter’s home and dad was there for pictures and dinner. Dad took a nap in my grandson’s room and was confused when I told him it was time to go home. He thought he already was home! Somehow I just don’t have the energy for a large family gathering this year. My son and daughter are each just spending the weekend at home, catching up on gardening and having a small family cookout. I am also catching up at home, and taking advantage of the uninterrupted time to do gardening and other chores. Nothing is scheduled for the holiday and that is just right for me this year.
Still, I do miss those family gatherings at my parents’ home. Even while dad is still alive, I find myself missing the things we used to do.