I’d planned multiple not-so-last suppers. These dinners would give us memories to sustain us until Thanksgiving, when the Dude would return, all collegiate and wise, asking for wine with dinner while discussing the Greek debt crisis.
If only he’d show up, they’d be great.
It was the day before the day before he’d head off to Indiana, but he had plans, maybe, or maybe not, or yes, but not sure when, or if they included dinner, and he’d let me know when it was settled. It wasn’t a surprise. We’d been dancing this tango all summer long.
By the time he’d figured out he needed dinner, it was too late to cook something and have it done in time for him to eat it. Shrugging off his overwhelming disappointment, he told us he was going to get carryout. My husband and I offered to take him somewhere, but that would risk us being seen together, so my husband offered to bring in dinner for all of us. The Dude liked it because it meant he didn’t have to pay for it. I liked it because it meant I didn’t have to cook. My husband said it would give the Dude more time to avoid packing.
“Why rush things,” said the Dude.
Despite heading off to college, the Dude has the eating habits of a toddler. One steak and cheese, no onions, no mushrooms, no peppers, no sauce. Only meat, cheese and bread.
Something this simple should not be hard to accomplish, yet when the Dude unwrapped his sandwich it was clear that the order was all wrong.
“I’m out of here. See you later.” We heard the rev of the engine, the thump of the base line, and with the opening and closing of the garage door, he was gone.
Beyond opening the wrapper, the Dude never touched his dinner. No amount of scraping or removal of the offending items could salvage the culinary travesty. The sandwich stared back at my husband and I, wondering what it had done wrong.
I took a deep inhale. My husband closed his eyes and snapped his plastic fork in two.
“May he fall in love with a vegan foodie,” I said. Nothing cuts the tension like a good joke. This one wasn’t good enough.
“He’s tone deaf to everyone else’s feelings.” My husband found a new fork. “He could have at least said thank you.” He continued to vent. He took time he didn’t have to get take out he didn’t really want so he could share dinner with his son who couldn’t be bothered to stay and eat. “It’s a slap in the face.”
I have little sympathy for my husband. This happens to me almost every week with food that I actually prepare. But I didn’t bring that up because I know it wasn’t the real issue.
Knowing goodbye is coming is almost as hard as the actual goodbye. The Dude is pulling away because he is as afraid of missing us as we are of missing him, only we’re allowed to acknowledge it. He’s heading off to the best time of his life. Just because he’s ready to leave, however, doesn’t mean he has the emotional lexicon to do so gracefully.
We are dealing with the omnipresent “last”. Our scuttled dinner was only the second to last, meaning we still had more, but only one more. We could pretend one more time that it’s just another dinner in a thousand dinners we’ve shared around our table, but this was the last time we could.
“I’ll talk to him tonight.” It was our own ritual of “last”;The Dude and I, both night owls, would stay up and watch television and talk, sharing foot space on the ottoman. Sometimes I made popcorn, sometimes he made pancakes.
“Dinner was uncool,” I said to the Dude as we both reached for the last few kernels in the bowl. He knew. He has a tell–a particular expression he wears when he’s already composed a response to the question he knows is coming.
His reasons sound so much like the ones his father dishes up. The workday was long, He had too much to do, and too little time. The weather was too hot, and the kids uncooperative. His friends can’t seem to make up their minds about plans, and change their minds too easily. He never asked for his Dad to get dinner, and then it was the wrong sandwich. It was all too much.
Goodbye is so hard.
“I’ll apologize to him tomorrow.”
The next day, while I was preparing dinner, the real, last dinner, my husband came home. He poured himself a scotch, and I told him I’d talked to the Dude about the prior evening.
“I have a few things I’d like to say.” I hoped my husband could find the emotional lexicon to get his point across while preserving our last “last”.
The Dude sidled up and shoulder checked him, and said, “Hey.”
My husband put him in a headlock.
All was forgiven. I went back to cooking dinner.
I guess he had all of the emotional lexicon he required, although it wasn’t the conversation I’d imagined.
What ever is.