Pasta (meat) Sauce
Grieving people that are still living is a peculiar thing.
I have lost count the number of times I have done exactly this during my lifetime. Romantic relationships, friendships, relationships with family members and more specifically, I have grieved my parents long before my mother’s death (10 years ago this June) throughout various stages of my life.
Most recently, I am grieving my father (again) because of his transphobic narratives and beliefs. You cannot just be "kinda transphobic”, do you understand that? I have had to sit with my propensity for all//nothing, black//white narratives myself over the years. But I assure you, you cannot simply be just a little transphobic. While I am engaged to a trans man and am gorgeously enveloped in and by trans community, this is about so much more, something outside of me. It isn’t just about me and mine. The impact of hate and the stripping of rights goes far and beyond outside of my bubble, my bed, and my family. When someone makes sweeping judgments that are harmful to entire populations, regardless of who I am building a life with, I will sweep up the bullshit and set it on the curb for collecting. End of story.
But then what? Much of it feels like formalities to me. You are unsafe for my partner, my community, our kids? The decision is easy and one I didn’t participate in making. To me there is room for ambiguity, for questions, for dialogue, for perspective. There is no gray area in hatefulness and willful ignorance. You make the choice to be hateful, I make the choice to protect. There is less heart meat there, all matter-of-fact. The ambiguous grief creeps in as a reminder that my father is not who I would like my father to be.
I grew up waiting on a man I barely knew, craved his attention once I did know him, longed for softness and understanding as a young child, raged back at his rage as a teen, was hurt and hurt and hurt by his words and actions as a first time mother. It was the longing, the ambiguous grief, of wanting something that existed, something tangible, but not in the ways I needed.
I have laughed with this man. I have called him when I didn’t have anyone else to call. I have exchanged apologies, recipes, and memories with him. While those bits of our shared experience were oftentimes brief, he is my father, regardless of whether or not our relationship conveyed a typical father-daughter image. I have been left wanting more. The biology of it all reminding me that he is half of me, and so the boundary lines shifted over the years. Sometimes leaning in closer, more often closing the door.
He’s here, but not in the ways I need. Ambiguous grief.
I miss him. There are things to miss specifically, but mostly I miss the ideas of what could have been, the parts I hoped to know and experience. I have tried on many iterations of acceptance over the years, left space and time and distance for changed perspectives, hearts and minds. That said, I do not leave the lights on for nastiness and I certainly won’t turn in for the night with a scratching in my brain of “did I protect enough” when it comes to more hearts and bodies than just mine.
Much like other relationships I have had, I so much wish that things were different. I wish he was a safe space. I wish my children would be able to foster a relationship with their grandfather in the ways I never knew. I wish for more softness. I wish he was someone I trusted and respected. I wish I didn’t have to miss someone that was right here.
It’s like that sometimes. This idea of grieving folks that are still here, ambiguous grief, is not novel and I am not the first to wrestle with it. This once again devolving of our relationship rode the coattails of peak legislative session weeks and therefore the feelings were compartmentalized. It is just now beginning to settle in, this new-yet-not-so-new version of our relationship or lack thereof and I feel more grounded and less reactive. I feel assured that my decision to stop contact was not only the best for myself personally but also for my family. Today I feel less of my grief but instead sadness for him. I worry that his insolence has come at a cost. I am sad that he will miss my kids, these wonderfully soft and compassionate kids. I am sad that he won’t experience the things I know he also longed for as a child, and I also know that isn’t mine to hold forever.
Of course my hope is that he comes around. That he recognizes the hurt and weight of the things he says and yet, I know that isn’t mine to keep.
It has been raining here in Denver the last several days. The chilled pasta salad I originally had planned for dinner tonight lacked appeal and so I set to make spaghetti and meatballs. As I began to prep, I found myself missing my dad’s spaghetti and instead of making meatballs, I made a meat sauce as he does. This sauce isn’t anything remarkable on paper. I imagine most carnivores have their own iteration, but this is mine, as close to his and him I can get. Dress it up or down as you wish. Add veggies if that’s your thing, definitely use italian sausage, we make ours slightly spicy and pretty straightforward. I love this way of healing and processing, through food and cooking, keeping things and people close in whatever way we can.
10 oz ground beef
1 lb Italian sausage
A glug of olive oil
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced ultra thin
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can tomato sauce
1 TBSP tomato paste
2 bay leaves
Red pepper flakes
A big handful of fresh basil leaves
Add the garlic, a healthy glug of olive oil, and red pepper flakes if you’re using them into a heavy bottomed, cold pot that is set to low. The idea is to infuse the oil with the chile flakes and garlic, not fry the shit out of it. It’ll start bubbling eventually, stirring occasionally let it do it’s thing for about 5 minutes once you notice the bubbles and then add the tomato paste. Add the meat into the pan, turn up to medium, season it with whatever you like (I did some generous sprinklings of the aforementioned) and let it cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Begin breaking apart the meat, and once it is barely pink any longer, add in the tomatoes, a generous sprinkling of salt, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, add the basil (I toss in whole leaves) and set a lid offset so that it isn’t entirely closed. Let it do its thing for sometime. I’m vague for good reason, as these things are always better if let to simmer for sometime, even better the next day. Mine hung out on the stove on low for 3 hours. Serve with hot pasta and a generous amount of shaved parmesan as we do.
Make something soft and cozy this week, okay?