Sometimes I Get Lost in Memory
like the one of Dad making dolmathes
for the last time, his taking the fresh grape leaves
from his vine,
washing, then blanching them.
Rinsing the rice in the colander,
he sautéed the olive oil and chopped onions
until translucent, making me think
of the need to be transparent with the ones
I love and tell them before I can’t. Carefully,
he added the rice and beef
and sautéed a minute longer.
When the aroma made my stomach
growl, it was time for two cups of warm water and lemon juice
to simmer for seven minutes
until the rice had absorbed the water,
then his own special season salt and herbs, his secret ingredients.
Something of the tremors in his hands made me think
about life, and I wanted to tell him I loved him,
and that love, not only food, keeps a family alive,
but my pride silenced me.
Next, he layered the bottom of our largest pot
with vine leaves and started rolling the dolmadakia.
The rolling was the hardest part
for his shaking hands.
One leaf at a time, shiny side down,
he added the filling, then folded the lower
section of the leaf over the filling, tightly
bundling them in the pot. He placed each stuffed
leaf folded side down—to the top. Pride can ruin
everything, a whole pot of Greek cuisine or someone’s future.
Drizzling the dolmathes with the rest of the olive oil,
lemon juice, and secret ingredients, he poured
in enough water to just cover them and placed
an inverted plate over the top.
The waiting began—40 minutes,
then another 30 to cool down
I wished I would have asked him questions,
and not just any questions,
like how hard was your childhood
growing up in a cardboard box in shanty town
in the winters? or why didn’t you leave us?
No. No. I wish I would have said,
“Thank you for the dolmathes
that you made just for me. I love them,”
but pride at that time was too hard for me to swallow—
now, it just eats me up.
by Judy Lorenzen
Editor’s Note: As this narrative poem so clearly explains, some lessons are learned too late and regret can be unhappily painful.