The mind’s ability to process information has always been a mystery and what deepens the mystery is how and when the information can trigger a memory and feelings.
I’ve eaten meat loaf numerous times, in fact I’ve eaten it so much I have a ranking system for meat loaf, much like our editor David Stevens has a ranking system for chicken fried steak.
As many times as I have eaten meat loaf, something different happened today at lunch. My dad brought me meat loaf, and, as you may have read in my previous columns, I think my dad is one of the best cooks ever.
I warmed up the meat loaf and sat down to some NCIS, and was watching (Leroy Jethro) Gibbs slap some sense into Tony (DiNozzo) as I took the first bite. My thoughts drifted from the show and I began to think about Sunday afternoons at my parents’ house.
After my dad quit cooking at Ralph’s Diner, he would cook every Sunday and the house would be filled with the wondrous smell of Sunday lunch. It was during the time when I only had two options, Fox and CBS, when it came to Sunday football and I knew better than to ask to watch it on the main TV in the living room.
I thought about how dad would say “It’s ready” and my sister, mom, Aunt Theresa and I would stop what we were doing and make our way to the kitchen. It makes me laugh to remember how we had a sort of traffic jam with all of us in the kitchen at once, but like a well-choreographed dance, we moved around passing around plates and silverware, rotating between dishes and eventually filling our plates and returning to the living room.
We would set up the folding table, and while it may not have been a formal dining room, to us it was the spot to be on Sunday.
Dad joined us in the living room, bringing not only his plate, but an assortment of condiments, entree refills, paper towels and extra silverware. There we were, sitting together and talking about the day’s and week’s events while enjoying the feast. I may have switched the TV to the game a couple of times but my attention was hardly on the screen.
If I think hard enough, I could probably tell you what exactly we were eating, but I mostly recall the laughter and joy we shared during those moments.
During one in particular, my aunt was talking about her job and how a certain person was annoying her by not doing her share of the work. I looked over at my sister and she had this slight grin on her face. Her eyes would widen for one moment and then narrow back again, she was also moving in a swaying like motion as well.
I looked over at Dad, and he was doing his best not to laugh. I could tell because he looked past me then looked down at his plate right away. Finally my curiosity won out and I turned my head to look at my aunt and saw what my dad and sister had been fixated on, our beloved Flasher D. Wayne — a Dachshund — had sat on the arm of the couch next to my aunt.
As she was telling her story she was very animated, waving her arms and hand around, and in her hand was a fork with a piece of turkey that Flasher had been tracking with his eyes for about three minutes.
I started to smirk and as I did, my aunt looked at me thinking I was laughing about her situation and said, “It’s not very funny Thomas, she is being very rude and lazy.” It was then that Flasher lunged upward, clamping his teeth on that succulent turkey, and made a mad dash off the couch to safety behind mom’s chair.
My sister erupted with laughter. My dad just looked out the door as to say, “I saw nothing.” My mom was in tears from laughing so hard and my aunt looked at her fork and down at Flasher and said something in Spanish, which made my mom laugh even harder.
I tried to hold my laughter back and my aunt slapped me on the arm and said, “You could have warned me he was there.” I didn’t know how to respond other than to pick up the plate in the middle of the table, turn to her and say, “Turkey?”
Our laughter eventually subsided and in the course of the meal even my aunt smiled and laughed about what had happened, as well.
Just as quickly as I was taken back to that memory today, I was back in my living room looking down at the bowl of meat loaf. I continued to eat and watch TV, smiling every once in a while. Even though they weren’t right there with me, my family was very much with me in spirit.
Thomas Garcia is a senior writer at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org