When we were growing up, it was always a highlight when Ed and I found out that our mother was making her famous egg rolls. The Vietnamese style egg rolls she’d make were a huge family favorite. All of my cousins would just sit there and gorge on them, dunking them into the homemade nuoc mam my mom would prepare and chomping away. It was usually either Ed’s or my job to grate the carrots for the egg roll mixture, and sometimes, we’d even have arguments about who should do it because neither of us enjoyed the task. Occasionally we would help roll them, but she always found our rolling skills sub par and demoted us to just peeling apart the egg roll skins and carrot grating. They are so well remembered and loved that my cousin in San Jose tried to replicate them recently, but he cheapened his version and omitted the shrimp.
This visit, my mom said she wanted Chris to try her egg rolls, so we spent this afternoon rolling them after a night of marinading the filling. As we filled and rolled, my mom reminisced on how excited Ed would get every time he’d see peeled carrots and the hand grater sitting in a big bowl in the kitchen. “Are you making egg rolls?” he’d ask, as his eyes would widen with anticipation. I could tell she felt empty as she remembered this. “This is the first time we’re making egg rolls and Ed isn’t here,” she said softly. I didn’t have anything to say to that. There was nothing left to say.
When Chris came back to the house today, we drove over to the Columbarium for Chris to visit Ed and for me to see him one last time before I leave home tomorrow. My mom immediately burst into tears as she walked up to Ed’s niche. I knew the egg rolls were the trigger. “Ed can’t eat any egg rolls,” my mom sobbed as I tried to comfort her. “He loves them.”
It made me feel a little sick to remember how much he loved them and how he couldn’t have any this time. Ed will never eat any of our mother’s homemade egg rolls ever again. And the rare times when our mother will make them, it will always remind her of how Ed can’t enjoy them with us anymore. And being a fragile soul, she’ll always cry thinking about it. As much as I don’t want to think about it, maybe it’s better that she not make them again.
As much as I am happy knowing he’s no longer suffering, it still hurts every day knowing that he can’t even enjoy doing these little simple things with us. It hurts even more being in this house and in this city we grew up in together. Every day this trip has been a constant reminder of his death and absence in our life. His innocence is constantly on my mind when I am home, as is his obsession with all things bedding related, his child-like interest in the Simpsons and Curious George and the Smurfs and everything else we used to watch on TV as kids, and his love of fried food and meat and his dislike of green vegetables. My sweet Ed deserved more from this life but never got it. The world just feels like a harsh place.