The boys, my sister Sherry, my mother and I were at a Chinese restaurant on Friday night, the day after Thanksgiving.
Lately it has been, as we say in the South, “a rough patch” emotionally. I took the boys on a road trip to my hometown for some rest, and to hide from life for a couple of days. And even though we’d enjoyed a good visit with gorgeous weather, and the first holiday hurdle was past us, I was still feeling discombobulated, disconnected from everything but the food on my plate. (This is never a good thing.)
The meal’s over. The check arrives with six fortune cookies. There are five of us. My mother is confused. She doesn’t realize that there’s an extra. She keeps asking, “Okay, who didn’t get one? Did you get one? Did you?” We all show her that we have a cookie. She says, “Well then, whose is this?” My sister and I say, almost in unison, “It’s Mark’s.”
Seemed like an appropriate sort of toast. Mark loved fortune cookies. He experimented with making them (they’re simple, but not easy) until he perfected his recipe, and then spent hours planning an elaborate prank on his coworkers. He made ‘misfortune’ cookies for them, stuffed with insults like “You wore THAT to work? Really?” and fortunes that hinted about pay cuts and impending firings. They were a huge hit.
Back to the table. Caleb reads his fortune, Sherry reads hers, I read mine, Mom reads hers. Ethan opens his cookie: empty.
I say, “That one’s Mark’s.” Nobody hears me but my sister. She and I glance at each other, and then look away, trying not to laugh, because it’s funny but it’s not. We should not be laughing about this.
(Ethan took the spare cookie which, thankfully, contained a fortune.)
When I blurted out “That one’s Mark’s,” I was aware at that moment of….what? A presence? A memory? Whatever it was, I sensed Mark’s sardonic, self-mocking expression, I was aware of his wonderfully dark sense of humor. After months of longing for him, for one good memory that would stick, for anything — at that moment, in that somewhat cheesy Chinese restaurant, Mark was there. In spirit or memory, he was with us and in such a perfectly Mark Daves way.
One of the blessings of our long, long relationship was our shared sense of humor. Some of the best moments of my time with Mark were spent with the two of us laughing – or desperately trying not to laugh – during inappropriate moments.
Whether it was him or not, it was just so him.