This story begins with the smell of freshly shredded cheddar cheese. In fact, the smell wafted up my nose as soon as the chili cheese dog plate was placed on the table in front of me. The smell triggered memories of love and laughter that only can be accessed at certain times of the year or on certain days it seems.
I was visiting Windy City Beef’s ‘n Pizza because my dad LOVED this place. It was the fourth anniversary of his death, and I wanted to eat somewhere he would have liked to go, had he been here with me. Windy City was a good choice. The bright yellow walls felt like a warm hug the second I walked in, because the last time I’d been here was with him. There’s a sign near the cash register that lists a few names, and if one of them is yours, you get a free hot dog. My dad just loved this place, with all its uniqueness and non-fussy ways, and so do I.
On this particular day, I felt like a chili cheese dog, so I ordered a foot-long with fries and a Coke. When the food came out, that cheddar cheese smell was so comforting. I’d been crying hard most of the night before and off and on the week leading up to the anniversary of his death. This past year was filled with life-changing moments for me, and it was especially hard not having him here. Plus, I just miss him. It really boils down to that. I just miss him. So with all that said, Windy City felt like a proper tribute. I do this on the anniversary of both of my parents’ deaths, and on their birthdays. It’s my way to honor their memory, hold a little piece of them in the present, and share stories about them with my friends and family.
If it were my mom’s birthday, for instance, I might go buggering, as she called it, and hit up a few of her favorite stores and listen to her favorite music while driving around. I allow myself to remember and honor them, and it’s very healing. I cry and laugh, and sometimes I feel like they speak to me too, on these days. On the Windy City Beef day, I considered going next door after my huge hot dog and buying a small bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, a true act of indulgence.
For a moment I considered not doing it, but then I thought f* it, my dad would. Once inside the store, I took a sample of lemon cake and bought a chocolate chocolate chip bundlet. When I walked outside, I placed my purchase on the picnic table in the courtyard, and as I was popping the lemon sample in my mouth I thought of something my dad used to say, “Ooh, how decadent.” It made me smile and when I looked up, across the way was a store called “Scrubs & Beyond.” My dad was an RN for more than 30 years and always liked a good scrubs store. I love when things align so nicely, letting you know you’re in just the right place at the right time. And on my way out of the parking lot, a Honda Odyssey almost hit me. It was the last car my dad drove before he died. See? Your loved ones are always around, trying to let you know they love you too. So I encourage you, go honor them, do things in their memory. They can feel it.