Feeling Frank

The author’s uncle Frank with his oldest child Arlene, courtesy of the author.

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Feeling Frank

by Jennifer Ho
Southern Cultures, Vol. 22, No. 4: Winter 2016

“I am in Jamaica because Frank wanted his ashes scattered here; he wanted to come home.”

I have been in Jamaica for four days and cannot find a place that makes ox-tail stew. I ask one of my aunts, but she says that it’s not something you typically find on a restaurant menu. She’s not sure why. The flavor of ox-tail haunts me, and I am determined not to leave Jamaica without tasting it. Why I am so intent on finding this dish is a bit of a mystery to me. It was never one of my favorites growing up (that would be stew peas), and because my mother does not make ox-tail stew, I’ve only ever eaten it at one of my aunts’ homes. Yet now that I am finally here—in Jamaica—I am craving this dish, particularly the pleasure of sucking the segments of the ox-tail, absorbing all the gravy with my mouth and tongue. Only after extracting all the juices that I can from the crevices of each bone do I leave these pieces on the side of my plate. Cleaning your bones of any remaining flesh or flavor is paramount in my family, especially for my Uncle Frank. The bones on his plate always look like washed and polished specimens ready for display in a museum showcase. Frank is a champion eater. Was a champion eater. I still forget to use the right tense. But then, how can the past tense really be the right tense to use for my Uncle Frank?