Dad bought me my first beer at 21 years old at the Noble Romans on 3rd street on the West side of Bloomington. We had a beer and breadsticks and sat and talked for an hour or so. I carried on that tradition with Jaki and bought her first beer at Dogfish Grill in Gaithersburg Maryland. Life was different when I entered college and I struggled for my first couple of years. Part of me did not want to be like my father and become a teacher. I wanted to be my own person. Dad never pushed me to be anything other than what I wanted to be. In my second full year of college I switched to the school of education and started eating lunch in dad’s office.
I don’t know why it meant so much to me to eat lunch in his office. It still means a lot to me all these years later as did that first beer. I guess it meant that connection that I pushed on and pulled on was still there. It gave me a sense of connection and it still does. That my father and I had and have a bond that is greater than simply biological.
In the end we all seek connections to our parents. To understand what and why they did what they did and became who they were. My mother’s father, my grandpa Ray was a great influence in my life. When I wasn’t getting along with my parents I could always talk to my grandfather. He always took their side when it came to the fairness of the work assigned but he listened to me. I realized later in life that both mom and dad listened to me as well, I just couldn’t hear them over the din of my own frustrations.
The most symbolic beer I shared with dad was a Singha in Bangkok Thailand in 2003. Mom and dad were staying in Thailand and mom/dad wanted the grandkids to see the place we had once lived in. Dad and I shared that beer at IPST the place that was built by Dad, Miss Hart and other members of the project from UNESCO all those years before (32 years before at that point). I was too young for beer the first time I was in Thailand. Now I could and it meant the world to me, it still means the world to me. To just sit and share a moment with dad.
It is natural in childhood to separate from your parents. Mom and I did just like dad and I did. With mom I always shared a love of cooking. So now I faithfully reproduce many of mom’s dishes. I learned to cook from my mom and dad. My dad was a by the numbers measurement kind of cook. My mother had a flair for flavors. Its really hard to recreate her recipes because there isn’t one. I remember the first time I cooked for my mother-in-law Joan Ralstin. She was horrified that I wasn’t measuring spices. She told me afterwards that she was dreading a very awkward meal (horrible food and an awkward silence) but instead she loved what I made. I was allowed to cook for her after that every time she came to our house or we went to their house.
Parents, Grandparents, in-laws, Aunts and Uncles all make us who we are. I was blessed with some incredibly awesome role models in every single case.
.your loving son (grandson, nephew and son-in-law)