My dad wrote the following piece at the end of a lovely day spent together. I had asked him to put his take on our day in writing; a day of hand-holding, good conversation, and pork rib donations to the table next to us (my dad – a most generous soul and more of a Jewish mother than most I know – has to feed others and share a good thing). I am most impressed with his ability to read me so well. I love my Pa immensely and truth to tell, since my mom’s death four years ago, I have been clinging a little more consciously to our precious time together.
By Manny Blackman
These days, Anya mostly calls me ‘Pa’. In her teens (shudder), I was mostly Dad as in “Dad, you are so embarrassing!” Well, the other day she called me with a brilliant idea! How about if she takes a day off her work and we spend some one-on-one time together? I knew her work and family responsibilities were taxing and how rare the opportunities were for a breakout day such as this. We agreed to go for it.
After some sweet time at The Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley sampling exotic cheese, fruit pastry, and a little coffee, we came to decision time – where to next? The choices were North Beach, Chinatown, or whatever. We decided on whatever…the Brown Sugar Kitchen.
Located in Oakland’s industrial suburb, this Louisiana eatery is very special in all of its aspects. It is well worth the short wait for seating amidst the genial and appreciative customers. I am no stranger to this wonderful restaurant; however, it was a first for my foodie daughter. Brown Sugar Kitchen features mostly Louisiana area delights. These include, but are not limited to fried chicken and waffles, spicy gumbo with smoked chicken and shrimp over basmati rice (the clear winner for Anya).
Our fast-moving and cheerful waitress had no difficulty in fathoming our father/daughter connection. Truth is, we rather do look alike thanks to a direct genetic gift from Moses hisself! The joint is packed as we await the arrival of her gumbo, an oyster po’ boy sandwich, and my Jim Dandy to the rescue ribs! My people-watching sweep of this non-kosher paradise brought my gaze back to my Anya. She had been locked onto my face for a goodly bit of time. I asked if there was anything wrong. “No Pa”, she said, but I know her too well to believe that.
I know that her mother’s death had hit her very hard. It had hit all my children hard, but for Anya and my son Kevin, perhaps the heaviest. All of us had, and still do have a personal sense of what might have been “had we but world enough and time”…
I am fast approaching my 82nd birthday. As it draws near, I have no sense of trepidation or dread. Truth is, I am a very lucky Jew. This whole lifetime has been like going to my personal movie without my being in charge. Certain scenes would certainly have been cut and left on the floor. I have read that Gary Cooper, a star of western movies had an only daughter who, upon his passing was “inconsolable”. My hope is that my children are more than consolable.
My hope is that they will understand that the focus of those who came before was on life and light and hope and kindness…..and love.
Next up…living in a world without my mom in it (if you’ll indulge me).