My dad was a barbeque lovin’, Chivas Regal drinkin’, party lovin’ kind of a guy. As a child, we would have large family gatherings that felt like they occurred every weekend. The dining room table barely had enough room for formal sit down dining since my mom’s delicious cooking occupied every surface (the “kids table” was more like every other surface in the house that could hold a plate). You always made more than one trip to the table even if it was a little intimidating to reach over all the adults and large coolers of soda and alcohol gave unlimited access to beverages. Since my dad had a good relationship with the guy who supplied him with ice cream (he was a grocery store owner), large tubs of French Vanilla and Oreo Cookie ice cream would often be present. Food was most certainly love at these gatherings and I don’t regret that one bit. It was part of my parent’s personalities and I rarely saw them as serious as they were when they were busy working and parenting seven small children. I’ll even go as far to say that it was therapeutic for them even if putting together those gatherings required a lot of effort.
The “Food Is Love” mentality spilled into our day-to-day lives but what I got to thinking about this week are the quieter things they did to address the health of their growing brood. My mom was a nurse before she became a stay-at-home superstar so her contributions to our health were numerous. My dad was a slightly different story. He loved life. He loved eating. And things like dieting and moderation were not naturally in his wheelhouse. But there came a point in our childhood where he started taking his health and our health more seriously.
Getting a household of seven kids downstairs for breakfast was no small feat. But, one day when we got to the table, there were these small, neat mounds of pills at each of our seats. Usually, it was just my dad taking his horsepill-like Theragram with some orange juice. But today, he had an identical mound in front of him and we were expected to join him. Each pile held a pill for calcium, Vitamin E, fish oil, and a One-a-Day Vitamin…and we were all expected to take them before we left the table. As little kids, our dad was not to be trifled with so we took those pills even if we did it at a glacier-like pace. Later on, he got a small electric juicer and would sit at the kitchen table holding orange or grapefruit halves to the spinning top so that he could produce fresh juice for us every day.
I couldn’t appreciate the effort he was making on our behalves at the time. All I saw were those little mounds of hard-to-swallow pills and juice that was sometimes bitter to the taste. But as I try to figure out how to put healthy options in front of Madeleine who turns 4 this month, I realize how those efforts contributed to our physical fortitude and how much it showed his caring when there was so much to care for. That era probably went on for a few months but the heart behind it remains with me to this day. Sometimes, it IS the little things that matter.