I meant to move forward, but there’s another story to tell tonight.
There’s no reason to relive that grief, when other’s are so…
… fresh, isn’t really the word I want to use, but it gets the point across, and tonight, I’m tired of searching for perfection.
There’s one thing I’ve learned about this business of living and dying.
Even if you know, it’s still a surprise.
There’s no way to prepare, but we try to do it, anyway.
We tell ourselves “If this happens, I’ll do that.”
“When that happens, I’ll do this.”
Strong. Sad. Brave. Devastated. Lost.
Reasonable. Relieved. Reassured.
Alone or in groups: family, friends, acquaintances.
You will be: all of them, at once, in a moment, breath by breath.
Whether you’ve been through this before or not, the emotional war is never won.
Because, there’s nothing to win in the face of loss.
There’s giving what you can and taking what you need. Relying on each other.
And my only imperative:
May Your Happiest Memories Stay with You Through This Time
and Forever into the Future.
I had the strangest reaction today. I thought, “I should call Mom.” And, I realized it’s been 18 years since I broke down in CVS trying to find the best last Father’s Day Card. Even if there was a direct line to heaven, there’d never be a data plan big enough to cover it.
You may have never heard about this COVID Cuisine adventure, but a friend FB posited: what is one of the weirdest food combinations that you’ve eaten during sheltering?? (be honest. lol)
I’ll tell you what I told her. It’d be completely dishonest for me to claim my COVID cuisine concoctions differ from my regular, um, creative cooking.
Honestly, though. About a week ago, I stared longingly into my cabinets of mostly health. My general rule is – if I don’t have it, I can’t eat it.
In any case, my jumble of left-over baking bits was mostly from Christmas. 2019.
I had to bring up the stool to reach the high shelf where I put all the should-be-inaccesible temptations. I found partials of: graham cracker crumbs, marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla, brown sugar, self-rising flour, regular flour, a box of vanilla pudding, a1/2 bar of Bakers white baking chocolate, two different types of cocoa powder and three different types of sprinkles.
Among the rediscovered hidden treasures were Tastefully Simple brown sugar salt and blueberry vanilla salt. I was also in possession of an overripe banana, cream cheese, almond milk, butter, two baby apples, honey roasted peanuts and sour cream.
Considered seemingly viable choices lead me to a dismal Google exploration conclusion.
I had almost all the ingredients to make something. Unfortunately, these particular ingredients made nothing. (Nothing normal, anyway.)
Banana Pudding? No wafers
Banana Bread? Not enough bananas.
Cheesecake? No eggs or heavy cream or any type of cream.
Chocolate chip cookies? Sigh, no eggs.
Apple cobbler? No white sugar. Besides the pitiful apples might not even make a cup, leaving more cobbler than apple.
S’mores? No graham crackers, but I did have a couple cups of pre-crushed crumbs.
Where my mind went after about an hour of recipe search:
I can almost make a cheese cake. I don’t have eggs, but I do have an overripe banana. Didn’t I read somewhere once that bananas could replace eggs? Hmm. Suppose I mashed the fruit to replace the eggs? Mashed banana has a tighter consistency than eggs, so it seemed logical to me. Plus, banana cheesecake didn’t sound too bad.
Suppose, I added some chocolate chips? Ooo, banana chocolate chip cheesecake! “Now, we’re getting somewhere,” I announced to Blu. I received a yawn and a “why-did-you-disturb-me?” slow blink of indifference. “Maybe not,” I thought.
“Well, how about a S’mores pie?” If I used the vanilla pudding and powdered cocoa, made a graham cracker crust and plopped some chips and mallows on top? Maybe. Then, I had second thoughts about making a pie because I’d have to eat it. All. By myself.
Aha! I can make mini cakes in my 6-cup pan. There’s some portion control, right there. So, that’s what I did, sort of.
I made graham cracker crust cupcake shells. While those were baking, I slid back to the cheesecake idea. Yeah. That was it. The perfect tasty experiment. I mean, you know, all the pieces were yummy, so…. Banana Chocolate Chip Almost No Bake Cheesecake.
On my quest, I’d come across a tip that indicated using marshmallow fluff in a cheesecake batter helps it firm. I didn’t have any of that. I did have some humidity-melded marshmallows and the forethought to halve the closest recipe I could locate.
Crust (from the box): 1.25 cups graham cracker crumbs, 4 tbs butter
Filling (adapted): 4 oz cream cheese, 1 mashed overripe banana, 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla.
Topping: 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Because that’s all I had.)
I placed each graham cup in one of 5 Pampered Chef small prep bowls. Remember, portion control. I planned on eating the 6th.
Flopped some filling in each, sprinkled chips and considered. Seemed to be lacking something. I still had a hankering for s’mores. So, a glob of mushy marshmallow landed on top.
When I was done assembling, a 15-second microwave run heated the taste-test. For some ridiculous reason, I saw the bowl of gooey goodness and decided to mix it all up. It wasn’t baaaaaddd. There just weren’t any clear-cut flavors, and the brownish, lumpy presentation was lacking. I ate it.
I tried being a bit more reasonable on Sunday. Heated for same 15 seconds, let cool for a minute and spoon scooped through the layers. There’s no logical reason why it tasted so much better. In fact, I ended up eating two on Sunday. Not back-to-back, though. Portion control.
I’ve got this one on the counter waiting for me to nuke after I finish blogging tonight.
What I walked in blindly to was service planning and a sort of support group. How long did the gathering go? I wasn’t really aware of time. I don’t think it was very long, but I remember my mother was anxious to leave once all the details had been vaguely recorded.
During the course of the evening, the sealed-in fate of the 70’s forbidden magazine story re-surfaced.
Learning I wasn’t the only one Jeff’d told that story to, brought on another not-quite-so-strangled smile. The fact that he told me and his best friend created a kindred connection for me. Amusing, but odd, and oddly comforting, as well.
Jeff must have thought it was important enough to make sure that more than one someone would know. What I can’t figure is why he felt that tidbit would have been so important.
I get goosebumps thinking about the fore-telling quality of that particular narrative. The unbelievable comedic timing heralded divine intervention, yet, dragged suspicion behind it.
Did he know something I didn’t? Maybe, he didn’t consciously know anything, but his subconscious was like, “Hey! Tell that story. It’ll for sure live on. They’ll laugh about it after you’re gone.” Is that too much to believe?
The service hymns were and weren’t easy. There was the pressure of appropriate funeral hymns, but I outspokenly chose the ones Jeff was most enthusiastic about. The ones he always enjoyed singing were the ones I imagined he’d want to hear if he was there. The ones he knew the longest, felt the deepest, exalted his simplified belief, sweetly tinged with childlike acceptance.
I had no preference for passages. Jeff’s father did and I was glad for that.
I wrote my portion of the eulogy that night. The Reverends thought I might have something to say, or want to say something. I was assured if the time came and I could not speak or if I just didn’t want to say it myself, they would read my thoughts aloud for me.
I don’t know how I came up with the words. It’s not at all unusual for me to return to musings past, just to be astonished at my own thoughts. This time, I obviously imagined something, but I’m still a little confused about who I thought I was going to be speaking to.
Just a few steps into the building, I happened to glance up.
The peculiar idiom, “stopping dead in your tracks,” came to life.
As I scanned the wrap-around floating shelves above the lobby, I barked out a laugh.
My mother was still moving toward the meeting room so I grabbed her arm.
“Oh, my God, Mom!” I croaked. “Look!”
What I thought was amusing, my mother thought was appalling.
It was October. Either, the 4th or 5th. Michigan’s got quite a thing for Halloween.
Tightly packed above my head were skeletons, ghosts and some extra-large Styrofoam tombstones emblazoned with “R.I.P.”
I stood there a few moments longer smiling and crying, and then scooted down the left hall to save the office manager from my mother’s indignation. “You should have taken that down!” she announced.
“It’s fine,” I told her over Mom’s shoulder. “I think it’s kinda funny, myself.”
The room was pretty full. I think my first choice of seat was the fireplace ledge, but that was vetoed by just about everybody. Someone came up with a folding chair.
Who was there? The neighbor couple from across the street, Jeff’s father, my mother, my mother’s husband, Jeff’s family and friends, and surprisingly two clergy.
Another unimagined oh-no moment. Jeff’s father was Lutheran. Jeff and I were Methodist. I expected our Methodist pastor would officiate since we were Methodist. Jeff’s father craved the comfort of his own Lutheran traditions. At some point, before gathering with the group, this had been discussed and the two Reverends had agreed to work together.
The result was Jeff had double Reverends. Odd, but not.
Following his larger-than-life life momentum, going big and large into the afterlife seemed appropriate.
October-ish. That’s how I’d describe the last few days here in Michigan. Of course, those few days were sandwiched between an oppressive humidity wave and today’s June like warmth and afternoon winds.
Anyway, the weather is what’s put me back on track. It was October and Jeff had died and things were moving along around me; absolutely progressing without me.
After the funeral planning, the funeral pants and the arrival of my mother, came more things I’d never thought of. More situations I’d never imagined.
Again, I have no idea how this happened, but there was to be another pre-funeral sort of planning thing. I couldn’t figure out what could possibly be left to plan. I walked into this one blindly.
Somehow, I learned that there would be light refreshments. I couldn’t fathom arriving empty-handed so I bundled up a beautiful, fruit bouquet. In my usual fruitlessness, I’ve searched the web for the name of the company. There are a lot of those companies, now.
After a dozen absolutely wrong search engine responses, I finally deleted: fruit, basket, flower, bouquet. Rethinking my approach, I entered ‘edible.’ Ah, yes. Edible Arrangements!
You wouldn’t think that mattered so much, but I used them for a few years after because they had been so absolutely accommodating.
The order had been placed by a friend in New Jersey, with specific instructions to not include any pineapple. Pineapple pretty much makes up most of the flowers. My arrangement had none, but was still gorgeous and generous.
I haven’t a clue what other refreshments were offered. Or who made them. Or bought them. But, I definitely do remember a necessary cup of Sprite in my possession.
Because, before I’d even made it from the front door through the lobby, I choked on simultaneous laughter and tears.