Friday, September 23, 2011

Shrimp and Grits for Pat

When I sat down with this blog post last Sunday, I had no idea how to start it, what direction I would take it in, or if I'd even post it.  I think when one is faced with an insurmountable tragedy, one can either be swallowed up in it or find a way to keep it in your heart without having your heart break.  For the past few hours I've been lost, completely lost in the devastating tragedy of unexpectedly losing a close friend.  What does one do with themselves at a time like this?  Write?  Read?  Watch TV?  Go for a run?  Do homework?  Bake?  I have no desire to do any of these things and yet at the same time I need to do something.

After beginning this post, I kept going back and forth in my head over whether or not I wanted to still attend my new ultimate frisbee fall league.  I spent every Sunday this summer playing ultimate with Pat including countless Yellow Sundays with the G-Dub ultimate team, so I didn't know if playing that Sunday would send me over the edge or help me find some peace.  I forced myself to commit by telling people I was coming and asking my friend Jenn to pick me up at my house.  On the way down, we talked and I began to feel somewhat better.  During the second game, I didn't have to play savage (shocker), so I was able to sit on the sideline for a moment.  Of course, that's when the gravity of everything that had happened hit me, and I sat there silently sobbing as I watched the sport Pat and I used to play together.  As I was watching, I noticed that one of my teammates kept dropping the disc and making silly mistakes, and at one point I threw my hands up in the air and yelled "TIM!  WHAT THE HELL?!" with this look of obvious aggravation plastered all over my face.  At that moment I was floored by this memory of Pat running down the sidelines with his hands up in the air screaming about a bullshit call or yelling at someone for throwing a hammer.  Maybe I picked up a few bad habits from Pat this summer, but the wonderful thing about Pat was he always made sure to apologize for his outbursts and ask people to forgive his actions.  It takes a man with a big heart to be able to admit when he was wrong and ask for forgiveness, I don't know many people that can do that.  The next time I got on the field I gave Tim a hug and told him I was sorry for yelling at him (repeatedly).  So maybe I picked up some good habits from Pat as well...

I'd be a complete liar if I told you this past week was fine.  I had no idea how to deal with my grief.  My emotions ranged from full-blown panic attacks while driving through campus, manic episodes in which I decided to go for a run and sprinted a mile, and fits of rage in which I chucked cleats at doors and an avocado across my kitchen.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, seemed to make it better.  Being with friends and loved ones this week did help me get through the services, and for the rest of the week I tried to take solace in the memories I had of Pat.  I tried to look past all of my anger and sadness and I clung to the happy memories I had left, and somehow I began to cope.

Pat, his girlfriend Brittney, Chris, and I went on a few double dates during the past year when I would go out to Long Island.  Pat and Brittney loved to go out to eat and wanted Chris and I to join them at a restaurant that opened around this time last year.  Nothing on the menu was really jumping out at me until the waiter came by with the specials, one of them being shrimp and grits.  When I hear the word "grits" I usually think of that chewy, bland paste they give out at the Cracker Barrel, but when I heard Pat was going to try it I thought I would too, since nothing else really caught my interest.  To my surprise and delight, the dish was delicious, and Pat and I raved how happy we were that we went with this special.  We spent the night talking about music, work, life, ultimate, and decided next weekend we'd do this again at a different restaurant.  I was thrilled to have found another couple to double date with, especially since they were people I very much enjoyed being with and had known for a long time.

Pat and I did so many things together.  We went to school together, we played ultimate together, we went out together, we went on vacations together.  Brittney and I always joked that the next time we went out, the boys would have to be the designated drivers since the two of us always had to drive them home.  Cape Cod was the last time I saw Pat, so we never got to have that chance.

There are so many things we never got to do.  A life was ripped out of all of our hands, and it will take a while to put the pieces back together.

How do you cope with something like that?

For now, I'm reliving everything we did get to do, like enjoy a dish of shrimp and grits together.  Pat, you were a wonderful friend, you will be missed by so many including myself.  The memories I have of our time spent together are some of my favorite memories and I have forever been changed because I had you as a friend.  Thank you for everything, rest easy my dear friend.

Shrimp and Grits
Serves 4

-       1 c polenta (stone ground grits, not the Quaker Oat kind)
-       tbsp unsalted butter
-       1 c shredded cheddar cheese
-       1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
-       Juice from 1 lemon
-       2 tbsp parsley, chopped
-       ½ c scallions, thinly sliced
-       1 large garlic clove, minced
-       Salt and pepper, to taste

Follow the directions on the polenta package to determine how much water should be used (I boiled about 4 cups).  Bring water in a large pot to boil.  Add the polenta to the boiling water and begin whisking immediately to avoid clumping.  Lower heat and bring polenta to a simmer and cover.  Remove from heat when all water is absorbed, which takes less than 5 minutes.  Stir in 3 tbsp of the butter and shredded cheese.

Rinse and pat shrimp dry.  Coat a skillet with butter and put over medium heat.  Add the shrimp and cook until both sides are pink.  Add lemon, parsley, scallions, garlic, and salt and pepper and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. 

Spoon grits into a bowl and top with the shrimp mixture.  Serve immediately. 

Adapted from Joy the Baker


  1. In my short 6 years in the Army, I lost 14 friends in the war. Wish I could give you some advice on dealing with it, but I don't have any. You get through it. There is no other option. And eventually you stop thinking about it every moment until some random scene brings it up again. Then you take a moment to be sad, say a prayer maybe if that's your thing, and keep on going.

    By the way, if you ever come out to Tennessee I'll take you to the most amazing restaurant near us that makes a shrimp and grits that is nothing short of epic. Literally breath-taking.

  2. @Courtney Waid I would love to come down to Tennessee and have some grits. Thanks for the encouraging words :)


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