After Lily finished chemo- it was years before I could eat a Subway sandwich. As you enter the first floor of Tripler on Oceanside- you are assaulted with the smell of fresh baking bread from the Subway in the food court. During Lily's treatment- it was pretty much the only option other than the cafeteria or little shoppette. It often was a treat lunch after a procedure.
The smell of Subway became permanently associated with really tough times. Just the mention and I would groan. Yet, time does help. The kids love subway and although I often question how healthy it truly is- it is a better option than fried fast foods. It doesn't count as fast food in my book- but that's because the Ewa Beach Subway is the slowest known to man. Every. Single . Time we go in there- it's a comedy of errors- there's the lady who doesn't speak english who has been there for like 5 years- yet acts like she has never seen any of the ingredients before. And why can't we call it white bread anymore? Now it's Italian- so if you say italian- no one knows if you mean the sub or the bread- and then there's the BMT vs BLT- oh so much room for error. There's the young guy who I think has moved on to better opportunities- because if he is working you stand in line secretly hoping he fixes your sandwich because he does it exactly like you ask. And he knows how to work the register.
This week I went to pick up the girls from school- get there and remembered that they were in student council for another hour- I had forgotten to eat so I thought- I'll grab a sub. There is only one young lady in line before me so I am hopeful I'll actually get back in time to pick up the girls. I'm serious on this. The lady fixing her sandwich is clearly confused and they are struggling with the rocket surgery that is sandwich artistry. Since my sandwich doesn't require toasting- I somehow jump in front of the young girl in line. The girl ringing me up wears a badge - "sandwich artist in training". She is very deliberate with sandwich building but we get through the process and she rings me up. Of course I slide my card- there is confusion- she didn't make it a meal- I really wanted a drink- otherwise I'd take my sandwich and go. Now the young lady behind me in line is waiting with me. Since she is now waiting on me- I tell the sandwich artist in training to put her sandwich on my card- I ask her if she wants a meal- she shakes her head and tries to hand me cash- I tell her to grab her sandwich and get out of here while she still can. She thanks me and goes on her way.
I drive to the girls school and enjoy my artfully created sandwich. A clump of pickles fall into my lap. I always get extra pickles. I have since I was little. I like the thinly sliced tangy little discs of flavor. It's the one time I allow the girls to count them as a vegetable- we all know they are not- but what the heck. And as I pop them in my mouth I remember another time long ago, when my family was whole. We used to drive into the mountains on weekends after we moved to Colorado. Dad would go grab Subway sandwiches and throw them in the little green oscar cooler. Phil and I now own that cooler- it has outlived many fancier newer coolers. Every time- I'd ask for extra pickles. Usually I'd get normal pickles. I'd joke with dad- did you even ask for extra pickles. He'd swear he did.
The year after Bob died, so much changed in our house. There was just a sadness you can't ever lose. You go through the motions. Dad travelled more, mom worked more- I tried to be anywhere. All of us lonely in our own way. Sometimes being together was harder- Bob obviously missing from our adventures. One less sandwich.
Some of the trips blend together and my memories become one. I remember the trip we took Bob's ashes to the Mountains. Dad had gotten me a little penguin with a raincoat on his latest business trip. It was appropriate- as in order to spread the ashes without people around- we had to be there early- the clouds hung low and we were enveloped in mist. We scattered the ashes- it was rainy and windy and they blew everywhere. It was NOT like you see in the movies. Dad tried to make it better- but there was just so much pain. We each took a bit of Bob with us that day- and not in the metaphorical, ethereal sense. In the don't disperse ashes when the wind is whipping around kind of way. But we were new at this. No stuffed animal, no amount of hugs could take it away.
We drove around. Enjoying the views until lunch. We stopped and dad pulled out the cooler. He had gotten subway sandwiches. We sat at a picnic table at one of the rest stops in Rocky Mountain National park. I remember it was cool but not uncomfortable. He passed out the sandwiches and handed me a small cup. It was a standard small beverage cup- filled to the top with pickles. He had gotten me extra pickles. I laughed and ate pickles until my stomach ached.
It was something ordinary yet extraordinary during an extraordinarily rough time. My parents were gifted that way- they would take the tough times and give us extraordinary memories instead. I asked dad how he managed it- he simply said- I just asked for extra pickles. Sometimes you ask and barely get what you need and sometimes you get so much more.