This is my dad's onion.
My mom bought this onion shortly before my father died. And about a year later, it is still here.
Whether my dad actually died a year ago depends on who you ask. He passed away on March 3, 2015. According to the Hebrew calendar, though, the one year anniversary is tomorrow, which means that it officially starts at sundown tonight, February 21. Because the Jews, apparently, are not very good at math.
On Friday night my mother and I went to services, rising to recite the Mourner's Kaddish to mark the end of the one year mourning period. And then we decided that we needed to cook the onion, which has been sitting on my mom's counter for a poorly-counted Jewish year.
Why an onion should come to represent my father is a bit of a mystery. My dad did indeed love onions. And sure, there's that whole thing from Shrek about onions ("Onions have layers; ogres have layers"). Yes, my father was a multi-layered man. But what human isn't?
Maybe it's the sheer, improbable keeping quality that makes this onion a stand-in for my father. The last four years of his life were very tough -- after several strokes, he was profoundly disabled, and he needed help with the most basic of physical functions. A deeply private person, he needed minute-to-minute supervision. His once-fearsome intellect was substantially diminished. But in many ways he remained very much himself through his last days, treating everyone with respect and gratitude, expressing his love for family, friends and good music. So sure, if Dad was an onion, he was the one onion in a million that would stay true to its onion-y nature for an improbable year.
And I will say that hardly a day goes by when I don't start cooking some dish or other by chopping an onion and throwing it into a pan with some olive oil. So my father was an onion in his very foundational nature -- as onions are at the heart of nearly all good food, my dad is at the root of me in some profound way.
OK. Maybe I'm reaching here. But really, an onion sticking around for a year is a little crazy. These are foods that stick around for a year:
Because they are not really food! But an onion is as real as it gets.
Yesterday morning we went to the Sarasota Farmer's Market to buy some more real food to accompany the onion.
And we cooked up a nice meal that was free of all the things my mother is not eating at the moment. It included roasted multi-colored cauliflower, a stew of kale and white beans (and onions), and quinoa. It was vegan and gluten-free and very colorful.
My dad would have hated this meal. If I'd served this meal to my father, I would have had to give him a roast beef sandwich for dessert.
But it made my mom and me very happy. And that, my dad would have liked very much indeed.