My dad isn’t perfect, this much I know.
He is frustrated that his body is letting him down. He’s mad that words don’t come as easily as they once did. It must be doubly irritating for a man whose whole life was built upon words.
Food doesn’t taste good to him anymore, and hasn’t since he lost his cook (my mother) almost eight years ago.
It breaks my heart to know that he has so little joy in his life these days, when he has given so much joy to me in the past half-century. Some people age gracefully. Others don’t. There is a lesson for me in this revelation.
I still think he hung the moon, just for me. When I think of Dad, I try not to picture his current life, centered on mustering strength to sit up, dress, eat, sleep, and stare blankly at four walls.
Instead, I think about lazy summer days in West Texas. The smell of steaks sizzling on the grill and Dad standing watch, wearing his favorite weekend shirt, a boxy terry cloth number with big buttons and a pocket for his pen. He is never without a pen; reporter habits don’t die. A spatula is in one hand, a scotch in the other.
I think about our tiny formica-topped kitchen table, where Dad drills me after dinner on vocabulary, current events, and who my friends are and why. I think about summer cherry tomato eating contests. Can’t. Eat. Another. Bite. I never won and I’m still not crazy about them to this day, but I’d be willing to give it another go if he wanted.
I think about the rose bushes he tended to on the side of the house, how he fussed over them, fed them, nurtured them, eventually cutting a kalidescope-colored bouquet for my mother each summer.
I think about the stories he’s written, chasing down bad guys all over Texas to write about wrongs. I remember how all-consuming his job as editor of our hometown paper was and how much he gave to the company man, often at the expense of spending time with us.
Mostly I remember how much he loved us, how proud he was of even the smallest accomplishment. I remember striving for perfection to please him. I never quite made it, but he never let on.
So on this Father’s Day I’ll remember all the good things. I’ll be grateful I can still talk to him. I’ll remind him just how much he means to me.
And I’ll tell him that perfection is overrated. This much I know.
This smoky, juicy steak is based on a recipe from my first book, The Great Ranch Cookbook. It’s nothing like the steaks Dad grilled growing up. Dad was a purist, seasoning his steaks with just salt and pepper, or if he wanted to get fancy, lemon pepper.
1 (3.5 oz.) bottle of liquid smoke (preferably mesquite-flavored)
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon jerk seasoning*
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 shallot, minced
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
Combine all ingredients and whisk until blended.
4 (10-ounce) rib-eye steaks (3/4-inch to 1-inch thick)
1. Marinate steaks for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator, but let them sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before grilling. Heat grill to medium high.
2. Remove steaks from marinade and discard marinade. Grill steaks 5 to 6 minutes on each side for medium-rare.
3. Rest steaks, tented with foil, for 5 minutes before serving.
*Jerk seasoning usually contains a mixture of pepper, allspice, cinnamon and other spices. If you don’t have any, you can leave it out, but if you have some of the spices in jerk seasoning, add a pinch or two, especially allspice.