It’s been a bit quiet around these parts the last fews weeks. Sorry for the radio silence. I promise, I’ve still been eating cake and bumbling around. There’s just been an undercurrent of sadness in my days which has left me finding it hard to write about adventures or how to make the lightest chocolate sponge.
For me, sometimes the only way to make sense of things is food (of course) and so I bring you, gloriously crispy, salty sautéed potatoes. Ideal for dealing with early mornings, hangovers and grief. I’ll come on to the potatoes in a moment.
My Dad passed away at the very end of January. The home phone rang at 6:30am and a fat tear was rolling off of the end of my nose before I even made it down the stairs to answer. It was a given that the call would be coming sometime soon. The end of years watching dementia ravage the stubborn, feisty, verbose man he was.
I’ve felt slightly fraudulent in my grief. I spoke to him every week, but he wasn’t my confident. He was a great provider, but not the hands on Dad that we all take as vital in our millennial families. But it turns out, that the finality of death can take you quite by surprise, however prepared you are. It’s made me reflect on how similar we are and on how I took his quiet devotion for granted, too busy being embarrassed by his eccentricity.
I’m so conscious that growing old is a privilege, one that some are not lucky enough to enjoy, but oh dementia is grim. There’s no dignity in it. It’s not how you see on TV. It’s not just forgetfulness and ‘oh how silly the can’t remember your name’. Dementia is not knowing how to eat, not being able to speak, it’s loneliness and loss, right there, animated in life.
In the midst of his illness, I think I’d somehow forgotten who he was before and when he died, it came back. Snippets and memories of a childhood full of warmth and happiness. No, not demonstrated as we expect these days, but no less valuable.
Him dozing off as he read to me every night in that little green bedroom, sitting in the high back chair next to my bed. (Including the time, on the eve of my 6th birthday, that with some persuasion he read me the whole of “Stories for 5 Year Olds” as I was convinced it would be redundant thereafter.)
When I first moved away from home, he sent me newspaper cuttings each week that he thought I’d find interesting, or little poems he’d written for me, in his hardly legible hand. At the time I was too busy being a foolish 20 year old to care. Now they feel like treasure.
Him standing staring across a field, watching sheep or cows. As at home as he would be anywhere, uncharacteristically quiet in the breeze. When I’m juggling two children around a play farm, all backpacks and chaos, I catch a breath and a moment of stillness and think of him, leaning on a gate.
Then the potatoes. The only thing he ever cooked and only ever for breakfast. They would be leftover from dinner the night before (where did all of those leftover potatoes come from?!) and fried, splattering oil over the kitchen much to Mum’s dismay. Served with salt and possibly sausages. Forever, Dad’s potatoes.
Thanks for listening, normal service will resume tomorrow.
- Leftover potatoes baked are best, with the skins left on
- Sunflower oil
- Sea Salt
- Add a generous glug of oil to a fry pan and heat until almost smoking.
- Chop the potatoes into 8ths and add to the pan.
- Fry until crispy, crunchy and golden.
- Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle liberally with salt.
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This is beautiful Sarah ❤️
Sarah Prowse says
It’s funny. I know how to sautee potatoes but I like to see what everyone else is doing or adding! Then this. It’s so heartfelt I got a little emo! Was my dad too that cooked up the tatos on a Sunday morning. Remember grief is love. You wouldn’t feel grief if there wasn’t a whole bunch of love involved and that love will always stay with you.x
Sarah Barnes says
Ahh thank you for your lovely message Sarah x
Ohhhh my love – so beautifully put and I’ll join you with another big fat tear. I’m so sorry – yet relieved for you, too. The grief does indeed come, with remembering. What a wonderful post, so eloquently written. Much love to you – you know I understand xxx love Sally xx ps what fabulous potatoes! 🙂
Sarah Barnes says
Thank you dear Sally. Sending lots of love to you too xx
Julia Owen says
Julia Owen says
This Surrey Mummy says
My darling my heart utterly breaks for you and having seen my dear grandmother pass due to such an unforgiving illness I know only too your pain.
Chin up chicken and remember the potatoes, the stories and the good times.
Big love x x
Sarah Barnes says
Thank you so much for the kind comment. I’ll always remember the potatoes! 🙂
Beautiful piece Sarah. I lost my dad in 2008. 3 months after my daughter was born. He was 50 when I was born and I was lucky to have 30 years with him. I am so sorry for your loss and can imagine a little of how you are feeling. The memories will always be with you.
Laura Davis says
Beautiful words Sarah. X
Emma - Life According to MrsShilts says
Oh Sarah, beautifully written, I’m so sorry for your loss xxx
I’m so sorry about your dad. He sounds like a wonderful man and like he’s passed down some amazing little legacies to keep forever x
This is a really lovely, moving post. Really wonderfully written. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Grief is your own journey and you define the process for yourself. This is a lovely, touching post. It’s so crazy to me that since I lost – not just my father but also other – beloved folks, how deeply ingrained in memory are the foods we shared. It’s almost magical and it certainly feeds the soul. A gift, really. xoxo.
My Sister’s MIL is suffering from the same cruel disease and has just been moved into a home at the tender age of just 70, it’s incredibly sad…sending lots of love…may you take some comfort in the fact that many of us will be trying to re-create your Dad’s potatoes!! Best wishes to your Mum too xx
Oh how beautifully written. Dementia is devastating, how it steals everything from the person and also the family but it can never steal your memories. Your lovely dad will be with you when you cook your potatoes, read stories to your children and in time you will smile through your tears and grief and feel comfort from your memories xxxxx
Such a beautifully written piece as ever petal. So sad you are experiencing grief though. It’s an ever changing chapter that brings memories of highs and lows unfortunately isn’t it.
Big hugs to you Sarah xxx
You brave strong girl xx you take as much “radio silence ” as you need, grief has no rules, it can hit you at the most unexpected time, like a ten foot wave…..be kind to yourself x
Such beautiful words, so beautifully written…..keep remembering your golden memories, smelling his sautéed potatoes and taking comfort in the certain fact he lives on in all that you do xxx
Love & hugs ???? ???? ( ????) !!
Mmmm the random???????? Were appropriate emojis!!. Xxx
Jackie page says
Life at the Little Wood says
Beautifully eloquent Sarah. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss. Thinking of you in these days and weeks to come lovely. Xx
Virginia Dodds says
This is so evocative and heart felt, thank you. My brother died at 23 after a long illness and my father after two bouts of cancer, and you’re right, it’s only when they’re gone that the memories of how they were when well begin to come back. These are a comfort now. I feel for you. Xx
Oh Sarah, this really touched my heart. I hope you find peace with it soon & that time really is the healer that everyone says it is. My dad has Lewys dementia, I feel I have already lost him & it’s so hard to know what to say & do xx
Brigit Colwill says
Sarah, that was beautifully and poignantly written and a good reminder to us all that sometimes the smallest of moments and memories can be the most important ones. I’m so sorry for your loss, but please don’t apologise to us….. you take all the time you need xx
Frances King says
Oh Sarah, how I feel for you. You have my sincere condolences. I count myself lucky that when I lost my dad it was to something other than dementia, it is such a cruel disease. But hold on to the memories and try to focus on the happy times, it sounds like there were many. Take care lovely, with hugs xx
Katie Bryson says
So sorry to hear what you’ve been going through lovely lady… big hugs xxxx
What an absolutely beautiful post. You describe your memories so well I feel I can picture them too.
Sandra conlon says
This has brought a tear to my eye, I lost my mom 7 years ago to dementia, one week after I gave birth to my third child, I miss her so much and still think of her every day, so sorry for your loss, hold dear the beautiful memories you have of your dad before this terrible illness took hold. Xxx
Nicola Bradbury says
So sorry for your loss Sarah. My Grandad has recently been diagnosed with dementia after suffering a series of mini strokes last year. Horrible illness x
Sarah-Lou Tomlin says
You write so beautifully and articulate the pain of an aching heart that many of us know all too well. Sending big hugs and a side of salt for the tatties. Just keep swimming.xx
This is such a lovely and heart felt story. Thank you for sharing. I hope you’re well.
Gill Christie says
I know how you feel. ‘lost’my dad after a stroke and he was a totally different dad. I like to think of him having a crafty cigar and a bacon sarnie with brown sauce today ♥️
What a great way to remember your dad