Loss and a New Life

I know it has been a long time since I’ve written, but the inspiration just hasn’t been there. I now have a story to tell. Steve Barnes so thoughtfully told me, “It’s your story to tell,” and he said he wouldn’t post on his blog, Table Hopping, the news or the reason that I have left The Merry Monk, a position I started just a short time ago. Instead, he said he would post a link to this blog so I could tell the story.  I’m not sure he knows how thankful I am, and I appreciate him letting me tell you. Again, thank you, Steve.

Those of you who are close to me are aware that I have a daughter Theresa from my first marriage.  She is about to turn 23 in June.  Theresa has Cerebral Palsy and needs assistance with many daily activities that most of us take for granted.  When my first wife Lynne and I split up about 12 years ago, Theresa remained with her in Niskayuna and has blossomed into a wonderful young woman under her mother’s guidance.  Lynne has driven her to hundreds of appointments, classes, and activities over the years, cooked her countless meals, helped her with simple tasks that get her through each day, and has sacrificed many of her own needs and wants in order to give Theresa what she has needed.

About four years ago, Lynne was diagnosed with cancer, and from the day she learned her fate, she fought the good fight.  She continued to do her best for as long as she could. Her parents, who are two of the finest people I have ever known pitched in endless hours to help with Theresa.  Lynne’s husband, a very special and caring individual, put forth an effort that was not required.

Saturday, May 21st, Lynne lost her battle with cancer, her wonderful husband lost a great wife, her parents lost their second child, I lost a dear friend, and Theresa lost her mother.

As a working chef, I have always worked a full load and a half in the kitchen, often departing home early in the day and returning late at night.  It’s what’s required to do the job and anything less would not be acceptable.  The issues associated with that life are many and sometimes difficult to overcome.  The life I have always chosen was my own, but the fact is, it wasn’t always just mine to choose.  That fact was always true, but is no more true than it is now.

So, Theresa begins a new life, a life with me, Jennifer, Tate, and Stella in her new home in Schuylerville.  Life will change for all of us.  Theresa will adjust to a new routine, I will adjust to a life away from the restaurant kitchen, the children will adjust to having Theresa here and occupying what was once their play room, and Jennifer will take on the responsibility of being the woman in Theresa’s life that will be there for her instead of her mother. She knows that she will never replace her mother, a task no one could or should do.  Such a great responsibility, which she is willing to do without question or complaint.  We will all do our best and will make mistakes along the way. We will face challenges, we will fight with one another, and we will fight for each other, we will cry, and we will make it work. We will all make it work because we all love each other, and we have no choice but to make it work.

So yes, I have left The Merry Monk. I have left the daily grind of the restaurant kitchen in order to take on the challenge of continuing the efforts of some great individuals. Yes, Theresa will still have most of those people in her life, but she will begin a new adventure and with that will come some new relationships, new victories, and new challenges.  One of the challenges we face is getting Theresa to a level where she has greater independence.

As some of you know, Jennifer and I have been doing some small-scale catering under The Yawning Duck name.   Some of you will even remember The Yawing Duck Pasta Shop.  At age 13 Theresa would spend many Sunday afternoons at the pasta shop helping to make pasta dough, running the cash register, and testing the meatballs. So, for me, Jennifer, and Theresa it makes perfect sense to build on that experience and continue to develop The Yawning Duck.  Aside from the dinner parties and personal in-home cooking classes we’ve been doing, I will be doing some consulting, as well.  It gives me a way to earn a living, and it creates an environment for Theresa to gain some relevant life skills that she will be able to use to achieve her goals.  Most of all, it will allow me to give Theresa the time she needs and deserves.