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On Finding Happiness: Veal Sandwiches

December 15th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Today is a tough day. Last night wasn’t that easy either. My Mom had a meeting with her Sir Optomist ladies and my father and I had to make ourselves scarce. Going out with my father isn’t the easiest. It’s not that he’s not a conversationalist but you have to be careful what you talk about when you’re around him. He becomes bothered easily and most of the time prefers silence and the quietness of his own thoughts.

I’m not sure what this type of behavior can be traced back to. Was it a behavior that has been passed down by his forefathers? Perhaps it was his mother who was a quiet and thoughtful person? I’m not entirely sure. It may just be a genetic or biological trait that he was born with and has no control over.

Anyhow, we drove from Burlington to Mississauga and ordered veal sandwiches from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Il Paesano’s. As mentioned, the car ride was mostly quiet with some scattered and unwelcome chatter. We drove through the early dark hours and made our way along the Lakeshore. There were many streetlights to wait at, much traffic to wait for, and many people to observe on the street. Passerby’s living there own life and trying to get to somewhere while staying warm in the beginning stages of the Canadian winter. As we approached Port Credit, we drove by the Suncor plant (lubrications division) and admired its massiveness. Smoke emerging from stacks and lights on towers everywhere.

The novelty of the Suncor plant wore off fast and there we were, driving together along the Lakeshore at a very moderate pace. Port Credit, as we came closer and closer to it, is where my X-wife and I used to live while I was in undergraduate school and she worked as an emergency nurse at St. Michael’s hospital in downtown Toronto. We shared many special moments together in Port Credit, often going out on a Friday or Saturday night in the business and bustle of the city. We would often find a quaint and cozy restaurant to dine at, talk and drink.

One such place was called ‘Thyme 4 Pizza & Pasta’. It was at this restaurant where we began to form some of our most special memories with the help of a very charismatic waiter named Randy. It was a dining place we would frequent most often, sharing laughs, clanking our glasses together and having the most delicious and saucy Italian foods. Yes, it was a lot of comfort food cooked beautifully with thick cream. Man, was it ever yummy and did it ever leave our bellies happy and full. More often than not it was impossible to get through the entire meal.

But those memories, now, seem to slowly be a distant and fading part of the past. There are times when I have strong emotional urges to return to those days yet I realize that such thinking is immature in nature and that those times are gone. If I am unable to let go of those times I think it indicates a lack of understanding on my part. For some or many reasons or another our marriage did not work out, even with our daughter thrown into the mix. We started off the marriage in our early 20’s and had high hopes. Even high aspirations. We did much together and grew together in some pretty unbelievable ways but that still does not change the fact that we parted ways in a fairly amicable manner. To be honest, it kind of bewilders me. It goes back to me thinking that the lack of fighting during our divorce was one of my biggest life regrets. So strong and ingrained in us is the will to fight for something – to hold onto it and not let go.

I was forced to let go though. I did not have a choice. And not having a choice, for a human being, is and will always be one of our biggest life challenges. Deep down inside, we want so much to have our way or have things go our way. Getting our way provides feeling of happiness and satisfaction; that we achieved something through our own clever means. In this instance though, I would not be getting my way and we would not be staying together as a family.

Anguish. The destruction of the nuclear family leads to anguish and despair. It also leads to resolve and that there still may be good, even better days to live for – ones that may be filled with happiness and meaning.

So there we were, my father and I driving on the Lakeshore. Driving down some dark road in a city that I am haunted by with memorable memories. The silence between us thickened as we made our way toward the restaurant where we’d order our veal sandwiches. No snow was in the air. No beautiful snowflakes to stare at as we made our way down the road. But we powered on like human beings do. Forging through the night to arrive at our destination to eat and share a bite of food.

When we got there it was still the same hole-in-the-wall like it used to be when Sunday (my X-wife) and I were falling madly in love. The restaurant owner sat at a front table dining with a beautiful young woman. It has been years since I’ve seen him. When he waited on us, he was always in an upbeat mood delivering impeccable service. Now he was being waited on. Likely after years of hard work and dedication. Now he had other people working for him.

I walked in, placed our order and went back to the car to wait for the food. Again, my father and I sat mired in silence. Not two words spoken between us, just the cold night air and people dressed in their warm, hooded coats; smoking their cigarettes and casting their glances at other people as they passed by. Human beings are always so interested in other human beings. It’s a fascinating phenomenon – our fascination with each other.

We waited for another 10 minutes in the car and I darted back into the restaurant. I picked up our sandwiches and our soft drinks and proceeded back to the car. I opened the door, dispensed the sandwiches and it was time for us to eat. We ate our sandwiches hungrily and did not say much to each other at all. Both of us were amply satisfied with our food. After finishing, my father went into the variety store and purchased an ice cream bar for dessert. We switched seats, I turned on the ignition and we slowly made our way home. Another night with my Father. The words spoken between us. Very few.

The question re-presents itself: Am I happy? Again, I just don’t know. Sometimes my memories from the past keep me happy. Other times I can’t seem to find enough of them to keep me going. I write, now, in the present. The activity of writing, especially if I think it’s meaningful, like I do now, creates feelings of happiness and satisfaction. How will I find happiness throughout the rest of this day? What do I have to do for the rest of this day to propel me into tomorrow? How will I be feeling tomorrow? Will happiness escape or elude me? Only time will tell.

I ask again. What activities will keep me going today and propel me into tomorrow?

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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