My mom was a good cook, but her mother was a better one.
A couple of times a year grandma would come to our apartment to make a meal.
Everything was made from scratch. No shortcuts.
She made the same thing every time.
Chopped liver, boiled chicken in a soup with carrots, celery, greens and potato kugel.
Her potato kugel was fine-grained, loaded with fresh ground pepper and onion, and extremely dense. It had to be dense because my grandma did something with her kugel that I have never heard of anyone else doing: she put it in her soup.
When the meal was ready she would ladle out steaming bowls of fragrant chicken broth with big chunks of carrot and a lot of chicken meat. Then she would put a generous slice of kugel smack in the middle of the bowl, it became it's center, it's core, that all other ingredients orbited. Other people had matzo balls, but we had kugel. The steam hugged my face as I leaned in for my first spoonful. I saved the kugel for last. I ate it slowly. Thick, weighty, smooth, peppery, filling....my Grandma's 'soup kugel'. I can't remember the last time she made it, or the first time I missed it.
Firsts and Lasts, maybe they don't matter....maybe what matters are the centers.
The writer/holder of this memory battled with depression for most of his life. Some years ago he could no longer live with the the two choices he felt left with: overwhelmingly numbing medications or debilitating depression. He left his wife, his home, his life. He was a lovely man. Tall, thick set, deep dark warm eyes, generous listener, gentle heart, sharp witted, clever and compassionate. He lost his center....and we lost him.