One of my mother’s elderly paramours – the ones she collects at the supermarket like a reverse black widow – died a while back. He’d been on the decline for a number of years, so it wasn’t terribly unexpected that he would pass on – he was placed in a 24/7 care facility after a taking nasty fall, and he never really recovered.
He and my mother had a weird relationship. As far as I know (and this isn’t just what I tell myself so I can sleep at night), there was nothing sordid about it – she was basically his paid companion. Not like that, but like the other thing. She ran errands for him and looked after him and he gave her money for the stuff she bought and helped her out when she needed it: you know, the things a companion would do. It was all very wifely, which was confusing because my dad was still alive, he and my mother were still married, and I was far, far too old to have some strange man try and play stepdad with me.
The whole thing caused a huge ripple of anger throughout my entire family, and is the reason my mother doesn’t exist as far as the rest of dad’s family is concerned. They’re convinced she cheated on dad, and no matter how many times he told them a) nope, b) I prefer it when she’s out of the house nagging someone else for a chance, c) I’m happy, d) this is none of your damn business anyway, they insisted that something gross had to be happening. I never thought it was anything beyond friendship (and not just because holy shit eww), but man did it make people (who weren’t my dad, mom, or me) mad.
Mom and her gentleman friend were still close, but she didn’t have to be as wifely in a place where he already had people caring for him. She visited often to smuggle him fried chicken, but eventually found herself a NEW elderly gentleman friend in a grocery store, like the world’s oldest, most confused Pokemon trainer.
Really, I’m sad that my mom lost a friend .. but I’m mostly concerned that she’s going to start feeding his ghost at every meal.
My father died ten years ago, and my mother has a permanent place set for him at the table. At every meal, she prepares a plate of food and sets it out for him. He gets baked goods or eggs in the mornings, fruit and cookies for snacks, toast and tea and cakes at midday, and some of her dinner. Oh, and dessert. Dad loved dessert. He even gets restaurant leftovers, and if we leave food in the fridge, some of it will end up on a plate under my dad’s picture. Totally normal, right?
I know the practice is rooted in tradition, but it’s still weird – for starters, I don’t think tradition dictates a decade’s worth of three square a day. That’s a lot of uneaten spirit food. And what if the spirits don’t like the food? What if they’re actually super offended by the sheer amount of grapes offered up? It’s not like they can send a memo suggesting strawberries might be a nice change, or would it kill you to spring for a nice steak every now and then. I can appreciate the sentiment, but I worry about afterlife gluten allergies.
I can laugh about my mom’s really weird quirks and not really believe in them myself, but I have to admit that I will be really mad if she starts feeding her friend at every meal, too. Only one dead man feeding allowed. Let HIS family feed his spirit in the afterlife – this place setting is taken.