Mom knew Dad loved bacon. It was why she hated it. To hate something your husband loved, that was her way to apply thumb screws.
I wondered: Why bacon? I would understand hating the smell of shit. But bacon? Is there anything better? Garlic, maybe, but bacon is tops.
As she aged, Mom began to focus on hate. “Can you believe that guy?” she said one day, after their neighbor poked his head over the fence and said “Hi.”
Mom died a few years back. Every time I make bacon, I think of how she hated it and Dad loved it. He always ordered it, with breakfast at Denny’s (“Always consistent”). He loved the smell. The crunch. The way it would bathe like a robin in a birdbath full of runny yolk. The way the bacon and yolk would sit like chatty friends on the lip of his toast (“Dry”) as it rose toward his mouth.
It was a small thing that made life worth living.
It was a small thing that drove Mom nuts.
Anyone who didn’t order pancakes, like her, was suspect. She and Dad were together forever, but something ate at the heart of them. Dad never cooked. Late in their lives, when they spent their days dying, I would go over early before she awoke, and make Dad bacon and eggs.
So as not to wake her, I would gently remove the pan from the cupboard, set it softly on the burner, turn on the flame. I needed the fan, to evict the smell, but it was noisy. I just hoped it didn’t wake Mom.
I peeled the bacon from its package and set three strips in the pan. And waited. Waited for the sizzle, the fat bubbles, the aroma, for it to be done, I hoped, before Mom would appear.
“What’re you doin’?” she growled one time, suddenly in the doorway to the hall, from the depths of her housecoat and slept-in hair. “Why’re you using that pan?”
Dad just stood there, waiting for me to finish. I would greet my mother, break eggs into the pan, and wait in silence before sliding the Evil Bacon and eggs onto Dad’s plate. He always smiled as he thanked me and took it to the table. It was all I could do.
Stuart Watson lives in Hood River, OR