For whatever reason, the delivery of that word in that scene sticks w/ me to this day. So, invariably, any time I hear anyone utter the word 'cheese,' my mind hears "cheeeeeeese.'
Some of you may have heard me do this...but I doubt it. I think I saved it for Jilly.
And to this day, I'm still not convinced she knew the origin of my response. I think she just thought I was either mocking her, or helping to emphasize my enthusiasm for (but lack of) cheese.
Regardless, it's one of these 'inside jokes' (I hate that term; it's so exclusive) that has lived w/ Jill and me for years.
So, there's that.
In one particular episode, the day is labeled as the 'Big Block of Cheese Day.' (Not the best clip, but it gives some reference.)
Not unlike the "Old School" reference, this always stuck w/ Jilly. If our vegan faces somehow crammed in some cheese (maybe a Pi pizza cheat), Jill would often beam, "It's Big Block of Cheese Day." She was giddy.
What's better than two of her favorites paired together - "West Wing" & cheese.
And, like many of us, Jill had her weaknesses. And I'm going to call her out on one.
I know what you may be thinking right now. Careful. You can't do that. Don't expose weaknesses when she can't retort. Poor taste. Hold back.
Yeah? Well, you hold back. Refrain from reading ahead if you can't take it.
You've been warned.
Here it is...
Jilly loved ballpark nacho cheese. There. I said it. (It's like a weight has been lifted.)
And as I expressed to her time and again, that shit's not even close to real cheese. For one, it comes in an oversize can (nearly a vat). A can opener has to be applied to it before you can drench your stale chips w/ it.
We could - and would - debate this one anytime we were approaching, or at a sporting event. To be honest, it was just pure entertainment for the both of us. Jill defending her stance as a fake cheese connoisseur. Me...well...me mocking her for it.
And, in fact, as I expressed to Ro just yesterday, Mommy had a fake cheese radar (cheese'dar?) that would allow her to naturally hone in on the concession stand that had that shit ready to discharge.
Even in her strongest and most resolute vegan moments, Jilly would cave for the fake cheese.
Gotta love her.
But, we more often wanted to be good vegans...good vegans that wanted a cheese fix. That's when we discovered cashews.
Cashews are freaking vegan magic. Case in point - queso.
Jilly made a killer queso w/ cashews as the base. (I won't go into recipe details here, but it's truly incredible.) It's some work, so it was usually saved for days like yesterday's Super Bowl.
And regardless of when Jill blessed us w/ the queso, I would always overeat. I would dip whatever I could find into that queso, ingesting enough to feed a family of eight. And, of course, I made myself sick. Every time Jilly made it. Thus allowing Jilly to label me Queso Jaso.
And like that beautiful queso to my insides, the nickname stuck.
Anytime I picked up the phone to call Jilly, she'd see it was me, pick up the phone, and I'd hear, "Hola, Queso!"
I miss that.
Then there's the more abstract cheese reference that's been sitting w/ me for a few months now.
A dear friend was in the process of watching his father pass. He'd had many conversations w/ many people about how to cope, and what to expect in the aftermath. I imagine, like me, he received a lot of insight and advice.
The one he chose to share w/ me referenced swiss cheese.
As I understand it, we are the cheese. And certain life events, when they impact us, create holes in our cheese. In us. And while these holes remain for the balance of our lives, the upside is that the overall integrity of the cheese - our integrity - does not falter. It carries on.
You carry on. I carry on.
Makes sense. Simple enough. Not necessarily profound, but it certainly
However, I have a follow-up question that has yet to be answered. How do you know how big a hole is going to be in your cheese?
I shared this nugget w/ Jilly, probably a month or so before she passed. We were in the car, idling in the driveway (probably waiting on Ro to finish tying her shoes inside the house).
I told Jilly, "I just can't imagine the hole I'm going to be left w/ will allow me to stay intact."
Jilly looked at me. Then looked down. I followed her gaze as two, three, five, six tears fell onto her denim pant leg.
She looked back up at me, tears in her eyes, and whispered, "You'll be okay."
J, J, & r