David’s mother, Carole, is not only my mother-in-law; she is my friend. Carole and I have been friends since the day I met her. There are many wonderful things I could, and do, say about Carole, including we went to a Stevie Wonder concert together (how cool is that?), and she is smart, pretty, and fun to be with, but this post is about chicken salad. Carole used to make the best chicken salad on the entire planet. There is no better chicken salad, even if the person reading this dares to disagree with me. Carole’s chicken salad was, in fact, delicious to the point I have been unable to eat other chicken salad since I first tasted hers. I will admit to having a few bites of other people’s chicken salad since then, for comparison purposes, but, following disappointment after disappointment, I gave up this approach about 25 years ago. Carole’s chicken salad was, of course, made with chicken, but its main ingredient was LOVE. She painstakingly boiled chicken breasts, then shredded each one by hand prior to adding the other ingredients in the chicken salad. I asked her once why she just didn’t cut the chicken with a knife and she replied that it just wouldn’t be right to do that. Good answer! Knowing how much David and I loved her chicken salad, Carole always made it when we visited. She often asked when we would be available to have lunch and my answer was, “If you are making chicken salad, I’ll be home for lunch every day!”. Sadly for David and me, Carole’s days of making chicken salad are over. Carole has Alzheimer’s Disease and she is no longer able to make chicken salad or engage in any of the fun things we used to do together. The last time she made chicken salad, it was as delicious as ever. At the time, however, neither David nor I knew we were eating the final chicken salad lunch his wonderful mother would make. We tried to re-create her chicken salad recipe, but it was a failure. It was missing the most important ingredient, Carole’s love. The point of this post is enjoy your chicken salad or whatever else you love now, before it’s gone. When it’s gone, there is no turning back.
The realization that we had eaten Mom’s chicken salad for the last time hit us months after it happened. It had just always been there, as part of lunch, whenever we visited from out of town (given that we left Jacksonville in 1989). And, it had been a part of my life throughout high school with lunches Mom packed – most days it was 2 chicken salad sandwiches. Her recipe was pretty basic and included some extremely fine black pepper, but never any fruit – it may have had celery, but not always. Anyway, as Mom’s disease has progressed, we have watched quite a few things fade into the past. I’m not sure why having enjoyed the final chicken salad struck us when it did. But, that part of her is gone and for now, the love continues – she told me yesterday that she loves me – she still knows my voice on the phone and she knows me when she sees me. But, memories will have to suffice for chicken salad and many other things.