I cook as an outlet these days. The process appeals to me, because although I am past the time of babies and teens, my time is still sucked into things each day that are largely unplanned. I enjoy the opportunity for creativity and the utility of function. Eating is necessary.

There is also something very satisfying about cooking for those I love.

I am also fortunate. I have a willing family when it comes to food. Generally they are not fussy for wherever my menu goes and do so with an appreciation that is not exhibited so much in verbal compliments, but in their eagerness when they anticipate that I have told them I am cooking.

Most of the time, I do okay and if I am so bold, better than okay, but I do have the occasional, but very  serious misstep.

Like last night.

I started out with chicken and soy sauce with a nice white onion, somehow ended up pairing the thighs with spaghetti that produced a strange fusion that wasn’t bad to look but odd tasting. You can take all of the good things of several things and put them together and the parts don’t equal the sum like they should.

I could give that it was warm and comforting… on an unusually hot and humid Houston, not particularly-comforty-food kind of fall night.

You should be getting the picture.

But there was another element to last night’s dinner.

Life’s consuming demands sometimes proffers moments that you couldn’t plan. As I finished dinner and fielded texts then tossed a salad,  it was clear that all my men would be in attendance. We filled out plates and my adult sons moved naturally into the dining chairs they occupied decades ago when they were little.

Like every family, we have weathered a lot. We are who we are this day due to a million moments of joy or despair and often will to get just ride the storm until we could cope. It has shaped who we are individually, who we are as a family, and in ways that are important, how we see this life and the next.  There is no doubt for any of us that Jake going to Heaven eleven years ago remains an event in our lives that colors everything. Especially dinners like this. If our Jake may no longer sit at the table in our here and now, he sits in our hearts as firmly as ever. (For some reason, just weeks after he died, I worried that he would be forgotten.) The knowledge that he is waiting in Heaven is part of who we are.

I watched them take their first bites. I settled a bit. I had made worse food.

Appetites sated, the conversation started.

“Remember that time you spanked us all and then when we complained that you spanked Jake less than us, you spanked us all again. I think that bordered on child abuse,” said John laughing as Josh nodded in agreement, helping himself to some more salad.  This dinner conversation was going to center around my mothering. The tone and content had been set. It could have been on politics or work or sports but tonight, well tonight was about remembering. There is a reason we humans have the capacity to hold and review and savor memories.

Once the sons got started, they dredged stories from as early as they could remember.

And one of the most pleasant sounds that can happen when you are sharing dinner filled my kitchen. We laughed. Not sad laughs but big, hardy peals that built on one another.

“I am sorry,” I said with those weird kinds of tears that have joy in them, “there were times I was truly overwhelmed by the three of you.”

This spurred further confession, ones that they knew would make me wonder at the difference between a mother and her sons. They told stories of climbing on roof tops to get better angles at the trampoline and shooting each other with half pumped bb guns. They explained the mystery of the ceiling fan blades that nearly decapitated two of them one night as they slept.  This was not a fault of manufacturing. They used them regularly as props for their imaginary games, tying and hanging all sort of things to them.

Male logic, no matter if it comes from tiny, young brains or fully developed, intelligent adult ones, is not and apparently will never be the same process as mine.

“And when she lectured us…” Both John and Josh were groaning as they detailed my attempts to provide them gun safety policy and the art of telling the truth. Apparently I over talked and overthought most of the lessons I sought to teach.

“You know, there is no mother who loved her children more than me,” I said as we were putting dishes into the sink.

“Great,” Josh said, a twinkle in his eye, “we were that hard to love, eh?”

No never, said my heart. I love you each with the love that has no end.

I hugged them as they passed by me.They feel different, yet the same from when they were tiny infants or toddling youngsters.  How proud I have always been that all three were mine.

I still grieve that my Jake is not here to hug. Each of us that miss him, do the best we can in that regard. We are mollified  by moments of pure joy that are a product of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. It’s a wonderful thing to rehash them and then make more to remember at dinners like last night. And we make him a part, as he always will be. The biggest gift is the knowledge that there are parts of this life’s journey when wrapped in laughter are a glimpse, a small sweet taste of what waits in Heaven. When the sum of the parts make a whole we can’t even imagine.

Today, if you are reading this, I wish for you, the moments you can’t even dream of.  And the solace of ones past.