Every year, Son, Daughter, and I take the ferry over to Finland about a month before Xmas. We go see the grandparents, and other family, and spread a little advance Xmas cheer. Each year, we drive up to Dad’s, and we go to hockey games.
A few weeks ago, we made our 4th Annual Road Trip to Finland, and we saw two games, one of them a road trip inside our Road Trip, as we drove 150 kilometers to catch a Finnish league game in Kuopio. And not only that, but we watched it from a luxury suite.
That means one thing: Real food.
The room was too crowded before the game so I decided to wait and come back when things had settled down. So I left my seat with three minutes remaining in the first period, only to find out that all the food was gone. I also missed the third period sausages, but did get a piece of cake.
After the game, as we drove back, Dad and I talked about the game, and about the suite.
“How was the food, by the way?” I asked him. “I didn’t get any, they had taken it out when I went to get some.”
“Oh, I didn’t eat,” he said.
“Really? Why’s that?” I asked him.
Now, I know that he can be a little picky with food, and he’s become very quality-conscious especially in recent years. Maybe the food hadn’t looked good. VIP box or not, it was still arena food.
“Mmmhhm, you know, I’m just not that into that,” he said.
“You’re not into food? But I thought the pasta looked good.”
“It was the chicken. You know,” he said.
“What was wrong with it? Was the sauce too heavy or something?” I asked him.
Dad was quiet for a moment.
“The cake was OK,” he said then.
“Yeah,” I said, and not able to let go, I went on: “You should have tried that main course. I was going to but I got there too late.”
The car was dark and silent, just like the night around us. Well, the front seat. In the back seat, Son and Daughter were watching a movie.
“I don’t like chicken,” Dad said suddenly.
“You didn’t like the chicken? So you did try the food?” I said.
“No. I just don’t like chicken,” he said.
The big food related story in our family has always been how I don’t eat tomatoes. Every time somebody’s made sandwiches, or a salad, they have always been careful to mention that some sandwiches didn’t have tomatoes, “for Risto”.
I just don’t like tomatoes, but the story is enhanced by the fact that once, when I was just a little boy, Dad made me sit at the table and finish my meal, including the tomatoes. I tried to eat them, but threw up. Dad felt so bad for forcing me to eat them, he never made me eat tomatoes again.
And now here was my not-eating-chicken Dad. How did I not know that? I know he’s big on sandwiches. And pizza, and meatballs and fish. And burgers of course. But I had always thought his “I always have a QP at McDonald’s” was a joke. But apparently he never even considered having a McChicken, or chicken nuggets.
I tried to think back to when I was a kid. Did we never have chicken? Surely we did. I remember Mom coming home with a whole grilled chicken every once in a while, a great treat, but was Dad never at home then? Didn’t he eat that? When he cooked dinner, which wasn’t all too often, we usually had steak. I think.
From right behind me, I heard Clutch Powers, the Lego superhero, yell out his commands, and I heard the humming of the wheels.
“So, you don’t like chicken? At all? Why’s that?” I asked him, wondering if he, too, had a story to tell.
Dad didn’t say anything for a while. I stared right ahead, waiting for him to say something. Just as the next group of cars passed us, and the road was dark again, he suddenly pointed to the sky.
“Look! Northern lights!” he said.
I laughed, but looked up and realized it wasn’t just something he made up to distract me. Dad took a bite out of a big chocolate bar, and leaned back in his seat. I thought it was interesting, because he never ate candy when I was a kid, but I didn’t say anything.
We all just looked up and admired the burning green sky above us for a while.