On December 4, 2009 my dad died. He’d been ill for a while and I had moved back to Chicago to take care of him. While it didn’t come out of nowhere when he died, and I knew it was eventually coming, it wasn’t something I knew was coming that soon. Obviously someone’s parent dying is pretty much the worst, but my dad was my primary caregiver growing up and I am the last person on that side of the family. So, while my dad had many friends, there weren’t a lot of people to commiserate with. And the primary person who held pretty much all the history of my growing up was gone. I’m relatively young to have relatively elderly/sick parents so I didn’t have a lot of people I could talk about it with without them getting the “OH MY GOD I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY WHAT IF MY PARENTS DIE?!?!?” look in their face.
So on December 4, 2010, I spent a lot of time laying around the house being depressed. It had been a sucky year. Caregiving for a parent remains one of the hardest things I think a person could do. I still didn’t know who to talk to and I didn’t want to bum people out. I hadn’t eaten all day, which rarely leads to excellent decisionmaking. But I knew my dad wouldn’t want me sitting at home alone, crying and not eating. That is pretty much the opposite of everything my dad stood for. So I did what I thought my dad would want. I took a shower, put on fancy clothes, and went out for an expensive steak downtown. And that’s how I started Steaks For Frank.
So now every year I encourage people to use December 4 to do things to both remember Frank, but things Frank would like are also pretty convenient things to celebrate the people you have in your life and also remember the people you lost. So go get a steak with some people you like. And remember the people you loved and lost. If there’s anything I have learned over the last four years is that despite dying, a great person is pretty much always with you, and more so when you get to tell funny stories about them. It’s a great annual reminder to take a day to think about the great people in your life who made you who you are and how you will honor them. It’s modern day ancestor worship. With steak.
I can’t guarantee you won’t break down bawling in a steakhouse, or get too drunk. And I can’t even tell you that your dead loved one would appreciate this. In fact Frank would have hated anyone doing anything to make him some center of attention. Sorry, Frank! I gotta deal somehow.
So “rules” of Steaks for Frank, because I am always asked:
- Eat a steak. If your vegetarian I have no tips. Frank would not have any either. However he would also have told you to eat what you like and not really care what other people thought, so there’s that. You can make it yourself, but I prefer to go to a fancy steakhouse. Frank liked restaurants. I think going out and getting gussied up makes this more of a celebration instead of just being sad in your house. If your loved one liked another food, I think that would be great, or any other food that says celebration is totally acceptable.
- Bring people you like. Socializing, particularly in restaurants, is probably somewhere in my family crest. Friends are important. Otherwise you’re just that weird dressed up lady crying over a steak. And I have been that lady, and it’s not the best. This holiday is a celebration, but it’s also good to have your friends around to support you when you need. it.
- Drinking. People always ask about this. Frank didn’t really drink. He wouldn’t be against it, unless you were getting out of control, which is kind of easy on a sad holiday. So I tend to try not to drink much. I would suggest a well made old man cocktail.
- Hashtag. One of the best parts of INTERNATIONAL Steaks for Frank is that people from all over the world talk about participating. It makes it easier if you hashtag these posts so we can all see you participating. Official hashtag is #steaks4frank. Also acceptable is the abbreviation S4F.
That’s about it. I’d love if more people participated, not just to honor my dad, but to honor their own important people.
For posterity, I think I’ll leave a roll call of where I’ve spent S4F and update it annually!
2010: Gene & Georgetti, Chicago
2011: Peter Lugar, NYC
2012: Chicago Cut, Chicago