21 Cheeseburgers

I can’t say exactly when I decided that having a dedication meal for my parents on milestone days was a thing. I think it was sometime around 10-12 years ago. I have written about this a few times I think, but as yesterday was the 21st anniversary of my mom’s passing, I just might write about it again. I mean, Mary Jane provided endless entertainment value while she was here, she should as well from the great beyond.

I do miss her, a lot. It comes and goes, like waves. Grief is just what it is, and I don’t really get very sad any more, just miss her and the idea of what she is missing by not being here. Mom’s death brought a peace to her situation. Her mental illness struggles in life led to physical health issues, and her body just wore out on her. It over simplifies it to say it that way, but after all she had been through, she had to be tired. She was a religious person, so God saw she was tired, and called her. I have always hated that she had to die alone in the middle of the night in a hospital, but I can’t change that outcome. She knew we loved her, so she went in peace, that is what is most important in my mind.

Just a Cheeseburger evolved over time. Because of Mom’s various living circumstances over the years, we weren’t much on home cooking. She just didn’t cook when we were young, and as we got older, we took her out to eat when we spent time with her. She liked going to restaurants, she had her favorites but would eat just about anything. But keeping it simple was a thing, and at the end of the day, she liked cheeseburgers, patty melts, and stuff like that. I guess I would say she liked diner food, if that helps explain. Family restaurants or diners were right up her alley, comfort food for everyone!

Every place you go you can get a cheeseburger, just about. These days, places have gone all out coming out with some pretty fantastic variations of the burger. Weird and wonderful concoctions that can hit every palate just right. I wonder how Mom would navigate this wonderful evolution of the burger. She liked condiments, but she wasn’t trying real hard to bust out of that cheeseburger mold too much . She would switch things up with the occasional patty melt, but a regular cheeseburger got the job done, as long as we left the wicked lettuce off.

My burger choice yesterday was a Crab Goon burger from the Home Burger Bar in downtown Appleton. It’s just what it claims to be, a bar that serves burgers, and they have a good selection and some fun choices. I thought about going with the basic cheeseburger, but people rave about the Crab Goon one, and my server said to try it if I was deciding between the two. I do think Mary Jane would have liked it, she liked cream cheese, and the topping was like a crab rangoon filling, so I didn’t feel like I went off course from her too much. I asked my server if it came with lettuce, and she said it did not, and I said something like “That’s good, I just can’t have the lettuce.” Of course she has no idea why that’s a thing, and I would have explained it, but I kind of got a little choked up as I said it. Those emotions, they hit you when they want, not when it’s convenient. Normally I giggle when I tell them why we just will not tolerate the lettuce. When I paid my bill, I wrote a little note with her tip, briefly explaining my tradition and why the lettuce is not a thing.

So that was the 21 year mark. I know most of my other siblings always participate in the Just a Cheeseburger tradition. I like that. It started out small, just me wanting to honor Mom in a way she would appreciate, and it’s become a thing. May 31st and August 14th the Facebook gets pictures of various cheeseburgers, zero lettuce, fries and Coke, because that’s Mary Jane’s jam. Finishing things up with a little ice cream or a treat is a thing too, but those don’t always make the social media splash. What I truly love, is that some of my friends who have lost loved ones have started doing some similar traditions, because it’s an easy way to honor someone. Eat some food they loved, and talk about the memories. We all love someone, we all love to eat. What could be better?

August has not been my favorite month for many years, as it has always found a way to take something or someone away, for the past 30+ years of my life. If I can do any small thing to make it better, I find it, and eating a cheeseburger for Mary Jane helps, so much more than I ever thought it might. I have one more rough anniversary at the end of the month, then I may be able to get back on a slightly healthier eating track for a while. I miss you, Mom. Every day, truly. But things are good, and I know you are watching, making sure we are ok, and that no foul lettuce finds its way onto a cheeseburger. Lots of love straight up to heaven, thanks for all the love you gave me, and thanks for not being a health food nut.

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