Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When You’re not There, Again

I recently wrote about my younger son, who I call PurDude, and the heartbreaking situation that he's caught up in. That is all still playing out. The boys have been through a trial, been sanctioned by the school and are trying to get through the fallout. These are good kids, focused on school and on community service. The national office of their fraternity is supporting them, but locally the focus is on punishment. There's not a lot of compassion for what these guys are suffering. And they ARE suffering.

One of the things that brings me comfort, as a mom, is that there is an adult who works in the fraternity house where PurDude lives, who feeds these boys and who has a relationship with them all. Chef Mark has been with the house for 10 years. He is so much a member of the family that the boys, just this past semester, made him a brother. That’s the kind of boys they are. And that’s how much they think of Chef Mark.


Crockpot BBQ Beef Grilled Cheese | www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner
Crockpot BBQ Beef Grilled Cheese


I have to admit that at first I was jealous of Chef Mark. PurDude has always been a very picky eater, yet I kept hearing that he loves Chef Mark’s food. Even his wings. Now those are fighting words. MY Baked Hot Wings are PurDude’s favorite dinner. Hearing that Chef Mark went out of his way to also make desserts? And that those desserts were epic? Very very jealous.

But ultimately the friendship he offers, the adult presence in their lives, the fact that food is purchased for them and meals are on the table, all made me feel that my son was being cared for. And when he’s hundreds of miles away, that is priceless.

When the boys got back to school after winter break they heard some sad news. Chef Mark had just lost his father. I asked PurDude if the house did anything in memory of Chef's father. Of course they did. They also told Chef Mark to go wherever he needed to be, do whatever he needed to do, take whatever time he needed off.

Chef came to the frat to cook. He told the boys that this is where he needed to be. This is what he needed to do.

That was in January. It was in February, just one month after my son started dealing with the emotional upheaval and the loss of a friend from that first situation, that I received a call from PurDude. He told me that Chef’s wife had called. Chef had a heart attack and was in the hospital.

The boys couldn’t get much information. The hospital, of course, wasn’t releasing it and they were not yet allowed to visit. They anxiously waited for word that they had permission to see Chef Mark.

The next morning the boys heard that Chef would be out for about 2 weeks. Knowing that there is often rehab and endurance restrictions following a cardiac event I wasn't sure, but for now this was good news.

Beside all of my concerns with what these boys had already been dealing with, beside my genuine concern for a man who means so much to these kids, I now was worried about my son eating. He lives in this house. He's going through a traumatic time. He is in extremely difficult classes. Now they all have to worry about providing their own meals?

Tribute to Chef Mark | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


The endurance of friendship despite physical distance is an amazing thing. So is coincidence.

When I moved to the Midwest I developed a number of friendships with people who were also not from here. We served as each others' support system, we were each others' family in so many senses. Susan was one of those friends, a really good friend. She has 2 daughters the same ages as my two sons. I was sad, many years ago, when she moved away. Coincidentally she's now an hour and a half from Purdue where one of her daughters happens to go to school.

Susan is a force to be reckoned with. She insisted on going to the store, stocking up on pre-made dinners and driving a carload of food an hour and a half to the frat. She was already at the store when I caught her to tell her that the boys were able to arrange for a temporary chef.

And I had at least one less thing to worry about. The boys would have food on the table as Chef recovered. 

Tribute to Chef Mark | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

The next day I heard the ding of an incoming text from my son:

Chef has passed away.

I called immediately. The emotional enormity of the situation was almost incomprehensible. I was now calling my young son to express my condolences.

I know I’m the mom and I thought I had myself under control but the minute I heard his voice I lost it.

My son who was already going through so much just took another kick to the gut.

And I am still not there.

I didn’t hold back this time. I asked him if he wanted me to fly up there. I asked him if he wanted to come home.

No. Spring Break is in 3 weeks, I’m already flying him home then. He’s not leaving now, he’s going to pay his respects to Chef Mark.

We talked a little, not much. We were both a bit stunned.

Again.

Overwhelmed.

Again.

Before we hung up I asked if he has his suit at school. He does but he’s concerned because his is navy, he doesn’t have a black suit.

I told him that he doesn’t need a black suit, just his dark suit and a conservative shirt. Black is for family.

“He IS family, Mom. He’s a brother.”


Tribute to Chef Mark | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics


With all of my heart I hope that Chef Mark knew that a group of boys off on their own and reveling in their freedom from adult supervision considered him a friend. That these boys chose him to be their brother. That they loved and respected him. That they wanted him in their lives. That they are better young men for having known him. That he helped make their house a home. That his presence and his work mattered. That his food nourished them in so many more ways than one. That he will not be forgotten.

And that the plaque hanging in the frat kitchen, and the duplicate presented to his wife at the memorial dinner put on at the house by the boys, is a tribute to all that he meant to so many young men. 

My deepest condolences to Chef Mark’s wife and mother. 

My heartfelt sympathies go out as well to my son and to every one of those remarkable young men who were, and will always be, Chef Mark's brothers.

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Crockpot BBQ Beef Grilled Cheese
                                                                            ©www.BakingInATornado.com
 
Printable Recipe
 
Ingredients:
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
 
2 – 3 # round roast
 
1 onion, sliced
3 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
½ cup seedless raspberry jam
32 ounce bottle of Barbecue Sauce
1 cup water

2 slices bread per sandwich
1 TBSP butter, divided, per sandwich
2 slices provolone per sandwich
 
Directions (Crockpot BBQ Beef):
*Mix together the brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Rub all over the rinsed and dried roast.
*In slow cooker, mix the onion, bacon, jam, barbecue sauce and water. Add the roast and spoon the sauce over the roast.
*Cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce to low and cook for 4 hours. Turn the meat over at the half way point.
*Remove meat from slow cooker, slice and return to the cooker for another hour.


Directions (BBQ Beef Grilled Cheese):
* Melt ½ TBSP butter into a pan on medium heat. Place one slice of bread in the pan, swirl it around so it’s coated with butter and remove. Melt the second ½ TBSP of butter into the pan. Put the second slice of bread in the pan. Swirl it around so it’s coated in butter. Place the slice of provolone onto the bread, followed by some of the onions that cooked with the roast, then a slice of the roast followed by another slice of provolone. Top with the first slice of bread, butter side up.
*Turn the heat down a notch and cook until the lower slice of bread has browned.
*Using a spatula, carefully flip the sandwich over and cook until the bottom slice of bread is also browned. Serve the sauce on the side.

50 comments:

  1. Wow. I just read the original post. As a woman it's so easy to judge--but then I remember the Duke case ( if for any reason you don't know about you have to read about it.)
    I am so sorry about Chef. Your son seems to be handling it incredibly well. And if we come from a good family we're able to make great people into our new extended family of friends in college and after.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I remember the Duke case very well. I tried so hard, in that original piece, not to judge the accusation but just speak as the mom of one of those caught up in the tidal wave.
      My son really is doing well. He's sad and he's profoundly changed, but also grateful for having known Chef Mark, and for having a house full of "brothers" to weather both storms with.

      Delete
  2. Oh. My. Goodness. You know that your children will come up against LIFE, but you do hope that it will be spaced out over years. Or at least months. What extraordinary young men to be so tested and keep on doing the right things. Bless them all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Diane, this is just too much all at once. But I'm really glad that these boys have each other and all live together. They will grow together in all of what they've been through together.

      Delete
  3. Oh my word. Those poor boys. HUGS HUGS HUGS!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh Karen, what a double tragedy in such a young man's life! I can only imagine how worried and tore up you have been over him. Life is so unfair at times, but I honestly believe that this will make a huge difference in your young man's life in the end. I feel that he will become an even better person than he already is. It's just a shame that his Freshman year had to come with a "hazing" from life. He should be having fun and enjoying his life and his new freedom instead he is having to deal with situations that grown ups would be struggling with. I have been saying prayers for him and for you as well because I know as a mother how much your heart has to be breaking for him. I'm just glad that you have gotten to have him at home and surrounded by your love. I am sure that was a huge help to him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Rena. And having him home was a huge help to me. There's nothing like looking someone in the eye when you talk to them.

      Delete
  5. So very sad. And, so much being thrown at your boy all at once! My condolences to him for losing a part of this family away from home.
    I hope justice is served for the rape victim and I hope all the rest of these boys get through this traumatic phase soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Roshni, I wish there were something I could do for all involved.

      Delete
  6. Such a horribly sad time for all of you. The emotional upheaval must be heart wrenching. I'm so sorry, Karen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Becca. I have so much respect for my son and all he's endured in the last few months.

      Delete
  7. Heartbreaking story. These boys are indeed fortunate to be each other's support. Family isn't always blood. Moms are certainly the cornerstone of most people's lives, but now and then, okay often, we are not the ones who offer the most support. It's because the pain of our children is also our pain. Sometimes the strength comes from those less entwined.
    Prayers to all who knew and now miss Chef and may God give them peace of heart.
    Beautifully written tribute to both Chef Mark and your son.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jo. Your kind words brought tears to my eyes.

      Delete
  8. My heart goes out to you and PurDude, plus all the boys in the frat. It is so hard to lose someone close to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Robin. The boys have just been through so much.

      Delete
  9. Oh man. So much tragedy in so little time. How has he managed to process it all? Further proof that you have an amazing son and he has an amazing mother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree he's a great kid, but it's not me, it's all hiim.

      Delete
  10. I prayed so hard, after you told us he had a heart attack. I'm so sorry to hear he passed away. I'm praying for Chef Mark's family, brothers, and friends. Special prayers for your family and PurDude.

    Side note... these sandwiches look like edible bites of heavenly perfection. I have a pork roast I've been trying to decide something new and exciting to do with it... think this recipe would be delicious with pork?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thank you for the prayers. I wish this had all turned out differently. And I truly hope that the rest of this freshman year goes smoothly as these boys try to get back on solid emotional ground,

      Delete
  11. Oh, my word. Bless their hearts. I have no idea why this is all happening, but I do know that somehow, life lessons and growth will happen. Being an adult stinks, as we've discussed. Please know that I continue to pray for all of you. Oh, how I wish we could keep our children from heartbreak, but we all know it just isn't possible. These boys will have a bond that won't be able to be broken, no matter what happens. Hang in there. It will get better, and in the meantime, I will continue to hold you all up in prayer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Julie. I do hope that things calm down for these boys, but I know you're right, they really are growing strong together.

      Delete
  12. OMG....I adore you but you are making me cry ALL the time! Your son is so blessed to have you as his mom. Reality is that when times are really dark, children need the strength of their parents, even through a parent's tears. You give baby boy the knowledge that he is loved through thick and thin and are, always, there for him. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Betsy. With all of my heart I hope that I'm done making you cry.

      Delete
  13. There are times we feel that it doesn't rain it pours but then there are times when there is hail as well and we all feel like we have been through the wringer and beaten up, your son sounds like he is handling it all well all he and you can do is take it one day at a time

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So very true, Jo-Anne. I feel like he's been in a hail storm. I wish all of those boys a little emotional peace as they mourn and try to get through the rest of this semester.

      Delete
  14. I can't believe that this had to happen when your son has enough on his shoulders already. I hope he is doing okay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He is doing as well as he can be. I'm enormously proud of him.

      Delete
  15. Oh my gracious. Even though you aren't THERE, he knows you're there for him. I can't even imagine. Much love to you and your son.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, he does know. It's frustrating to be so far away, but I think about what it would be like if we lived in a time before video chatting and texting and I do realize that it's great to be able to see his face when we talk and to just exchange a few text words between calls and video chats. As far away as we are, we really have more access to him than we would have years ago.

      Delete
  16. We have a saying in German: "ein Unglück kommt selten allein" it means if something bad happens, there's usually more where that came from. It sure is true for hubby at the moment.
    I am so sorry to hear about Chef Mark. I remember reading about his hear-attack on FB. It's so tough when extraordinary people are gone.
    Two things come to my mind:
    People who are very compassionate and care about others can actually die from a broken heart.
    His Dad may need him to be with him even more than his family and brothers on earth

    Glad you've got your good friend Susan "nearby".
    PurDude has a lot to deal with, and I hope it's true what they say, God only gives you what you can handle. I would like to send him and his brothers some Swiss chocolate - if you think that's a good idea send me his address.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't really know abut only getting what we can handle, honestly we don't have any choice but to handle it. But ultimately it is NOT what a freshman year at college hundreds of miles from home should look like for any kid.

      Delete
  17. I'm devastated for your son. I'm sick for Chef Mark's family and all those that loved him. And I'm sorry that that little boy of yours isn't in your arms. I know he was home for a bit; I hope it was a bit of a respite for the both of you.
    Susan sounds like an amazing woman. And Chef Mark? The boys were lucky to have been in his presence even if for just a short while.
    I'm sending you so much love, K.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As much as my son will miss him, I'm glad he got a chance to know Chef. And I really am relieved knowing that if we needed her, Susan could and would get to my son.
      And as for me, I have you. ❤

      Delete
  18. Wow - this is so sad to hear that on top of what your son and his brothers are going through. Hope both you and he can stay strong through this time,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so happy to have just had him home for a week. We had some face to face conversations and I've seen his strength.He'll get through all of this.

      Delete
  19. So very sorry Karen - more heartbreak at a time where is must seem impossible for there to be more. What an amazing man Chef Mark was and you are right, to not have known him would have been a much bigger loss for your son. Sending you a hug for strength x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the hug. These boys are going to get through this, can't wait to have my son home for the summer.

      Delete
  20. That is so sad, Karen. Reading the comments above it is wonderful to have so many rally up around you in support and I am sure PurDude feels it as well. I hope you can find a way to overcome the stress and worry as I am a worrier and constantly have to use my coping skills to realize that worrying does not change anything. It's a lot easier said than done but one thing that has helped me multiple times is "When you buy the thought, you buy the lie" So I have to constantly remind myself to cancel all the negative worries and thoughts with positive ones -- without putting your head in the sand. This will bring new strength for both of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, you can really get lost in it all. This is why I have my baking and my blogging. It really does help me to put it all aside for a while and concentrate on something else.

      Delete
  21. Wow... That's a lot for anyone to go through. Especially someone so young. He is lucky, though, to have you to provide support & comfort, even if you're not physically there with him. I'm sure he knows that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, he does. He'll get through it and I'll be there with him as much as I can from this far away.

      Delete
  22. This is such a sad story with so many trials for the people in your life.

    Very sad to hear of the passing of Chef Mark. It sounds like he left a wonderful legacy - memories of wonderful food and an even dearer friend. RIP Mark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, he leaves behind many young men who will truly miss him.

      Delete
  23. Oh my the hits keep coming and I'm sorry they have. I'm truly sorry the boys lost their brother.

    Love to everyone who is feeling the loss of Chef Mark during this already tough time.

    Xo.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Heartbreaking, but it sounds like you have raised a remarkable young man.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, he really is a good kid, learning some very hard life lessons.

      Delete
  25. How you continue day after day with all of this going on just stuns me Karen. You say your friend is a force to be reckoned with, but I believe you are too. My heart breaks for all of you right now and I hope with all of my heart that the bad news stops for now. You guys need some good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, we've had enough. Really looking forward to getting my son home for the summer.

      Delete

Warning: Comment at your own risk. I have Comment Moderation, meaning I approve all comments before they show up here. So go ahead, I'm not scared!