caregiving,  social commentary

‘Thank you for keeping me alive’: love language from the kitchen

baked pasta broccoli parsley
A favorite dish: baked mozzarella pasta with steamed broccoli, and a sprig of parsley.

What a sprig of parsley can teach us about compassion during the Covid-19 pandemic and the endemic ‘disease of hate’ in America.

“Thank you for keeping me alive.”

As a caregiver, I haven’t cooked at the home of my charge in weeks. Our contact is limited to a more-than-six-feet-apart hello at the door when I drop off his home-cooked meals, cooked at my home, the home of my heart, because what is a stove? It’s just a source of heat inside a building. What is a heart? A source of care inside a body.

And yet the kitchen is where we all speak a love language.

“Thank you for keeping me alive.”

From the mouth of an octogenarian Holocaust refugee I keep a distance from so he won’t succumb to a virus. Think about that for a moment: a virus — a non-living organism with no neurological system that somehow acts out, somehow follows a destructive path through its host, though, clinically speaking, it has no ego, no mind, no emotion nor agenda. Yet, it’s clever. Insidious, even.

What do we call the Third Reich, then? Oh, I’m not just referring to World War II, which my charge survived. I’m referring to this world right now, and specifically our nation. What do we call the disease of hate? It too is clever. Insidious, even. Acts out, follows a destructive path through its host, and is all ego, mind, emotion and agenda.

A love language

“Thank you for keeping me alive” is a love language. My cooking is a love language. What we are witnessing in our country is all hate language, silencing those of us who only speak love, extinguishing the voice of desperation, injustice that’s been boiling over for ages.

It’s exasperating.

Sometimes I ask myself why I should bother with the parsley garnish. My charge doesn’t have much of a palate. Oh, but you better believe I’m going to finish the dish with a sprig.

That little green leaf holds hope. A little herb that millions of Jews never got to taste. A little morsel that so many brutalized by the disease of hate never get to enjoy. They are killed off. They don’t even get the chance to forgive.

They don’t even get to say: “Thank you for keeping me alive.”

“Thank you for keeping me alive” is something my old charge says to me in his quirky humor.

It should not be a statement any black citizen should ever have to say law enforcement. It should be a given in a system of justice operating from compassion and fairness. No white person ever arrested has ever had to say “thank you for keeping me alive,” as a slave begging to a cruel master.

I pity those who only know hate languages, those who are ill with hate, addicted to it, consumed by it. They too will never know what it means to be fully alive and in love. No food eaten in hate ever tastes good.

— Originally posted on Facebook in the aftermath of the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Read more at The Guardian.

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