The Cornbread Lesson

There’s an obvious family trait passed down from Nannee to Sally and then to Jeff, and Eric and Nicole – having a purpose was and is important to each of them. I don’t know that it’s ever been acknowledged, but the way I’ve seen it, that purpose was always to be sure everyone was treated as if they were the most important person in the world, and to do everything in their power not to be a burden to anyone else.

Jeff and I talked it over and knew Nannee was independent enough, and that she’d be stubborn enough, to not accept our permanent hospitality. We didn’t kidnap her, we just kindly informed her she would be coming to stay with us for a weekend… or so.

The first time Nannee stayed with us was only for a day or so. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit but had to get home to attend to her laundry.

The next time was 2 full days and we brought her laundry with her. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit, but had to get home for her mail.

The third time, Nannee said she had the flu, and welcomed a little more extended stay. She lasted an entire week, and by the end of her visit, she was up and about, doing our laundry and helping cook dinner.

I arrived home about an hour later than normal one Friday night after another long week of 9 ½ hour days and 2 ½ hour vanpool commuter roundtrips to find that they hadn’t waited for me for supper. I was overly tired, unreasonably disappointed and very hungry. There’s a common name for that now: hangry.

They were watching TV, Nannee on the couch and Jeff in his chair, when he called out to me from the den, “There’s chili on the stove and corn muffins on the counter!”

I walked into the kitchen, took a look at the counter and yelled, “What the hell, Jeff?!?!”

“What?” he asked in that hurt and hesitant voice I wish I hadn’t induced many times and wish I could forget now, as well.  “What the hell did you do this muffin pan?” I raged.  “There’re gouge marks in every cup!”

When I peered through the pass-thru, Nannee was looking concerned. Jeff’s eyes were huge. He was shortly shaking his head and doing an abbreviated version of the hand-jive, which dramatically finished with the universal finger across the neck sign for “Stop!” I immediately assimilated what that meant, burst into tears and ran into our bedroom.

When I didn’t come back out, Jeff came in after me. “She was just trying to help out,” he said. “She really wanted to do something nice for us.” When I just kept crying, Jeff continued, “She’s feeling pretty good. We had a fun time cooking together.” I felt like a heel and told him so. “It’s alright,” he said. “It’s not!” I wailed. “Give me a minute and I will come apologize.”

By the time I got myself together and changed my clothes, Nannee had decided to go to bed. I felt even worse about that. “It’s ok,” Jeff said. “She understands. I told her you were sorry and she said that she’s glad you feel like you’re able to be yourself around her.”

Saturday morning, Nannee decided it was time to go home, again. “It’s the weekend,” she reasoned. “You should be able to relax and spend some time together without me here.”

I apologized profusely. If I had known she’d been the one to ruin the pan or even if Jeff had been responsible, I had no right speaking to either of them that way. They’d made me dinner and I behaved poorly.

Nannee just pshaw’d me. “Life has bumps,” she said. “.. ‘t doesn’t make the love any less.”

In this case, it made the love even more.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 23 life has bumps jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Why We Say It: Hangriness

Don’t Say It: Biblically Speaking

Eat This: Cornbread

Kindnapped

I never did take communion with Nannee. I felt it would be disrespectful to take communion on false pretenses. I’d have to be a believer to do that. I obviously wasn’t one and had no intention of becoming one, either.  I’d thought she perhaps just didn’t understand. But, then again, she knew my upbringing and now I wonder if it was her way of trying to “save” me.

As Nannee was getting sick more often, not ever getting fully better, Jeff and I would stop on our way home from work and drive over on weekends to make sure she had everything she needed. We’d pick-up her prescriptions, bring in dinner, do her laundry when she was too tired to go down to the basement.

If she knew we were coming, she’d have dinner ready no matter how poorly she was feeling. If she didn’t know we were coming she’d express her disappointment that she wasn’t prepared by saying, “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake.” I always thought that was cute.

About this same time, Jeff’s medical issues began to take over our life. He would miss work because of leg and foot pain. He had difficulty walking long distances. He struggled through his delivery job; struggled to keep his blood sugars in check.

He’d be on and off work as doctors recommended all sorts of ‘hopefully this will be a quick fix’ patches. A week of putting his feet up was supposed to help. Trying a new medication that made me him a little loopy was followed by rising and more frequent insulin injections.

He was in and out of hospitals numerous times, suffering through rampant high blood sugar induced yeast infections, and bouts of excruciating pancreatitis. He gained weight and gained sleep apnea.

After a string of absences and unresolved issues, Jeff was encouraged to apply for FMLA. He happily did so, convinced this was just a temporary blip in his life. However, having to take more time off morphed into short term disability, then continued into long term disability.

Throughout it all, Jeff really wanted to get back to work and fully expected to. Eventually, the pain won and left him with the very much unwanted and depressing status of permanently disabled.

In the middle of all this, Jeff and I kindnapped Nannee.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 17 Some people always see blue skies jakorte

 

Apologetic Delay

Certain times a year, the regrets really pile up. Lately, I’m practically buried.

So many things went wrong. Small things became disproportionate disasters. Mostly, due to my stubbornness, but always with help from Jeff.

I’m being stubborn again, all by myself. Memories are flying in from all directions and I want to accurately order them. Actually, I feel I have to accurately order them. I so want to skip over the regrets. I do want to include them, too. Our story’s weave will be weak without them.

Apologizing to people who may not have known they were slighted won’t make me feel better. Probably won’t make them feel any better, either.

I’m also a bit uninspired from having to sort through some rather uninspiring parts of my recent life. It would be nice to be self-inspired, but that’s not working so well.

Pushing a stalled car may get you somewhere, but it’s still going to be stalled when you get there. I’m trying but I could use a little outside inspiration… and a magic wand.

In the meantime, while I’m unrealistically waiting for my thoughts to spring from my being onto paper or into my computer, I’ll tell you about the start of something. But first, let me tell you about the start of the start of our most important journey.

About Nannee, Mary Vincze was a strong woman with a strong faith. She buried her husband young and lost her only child, her daughter Sally. They were close and I do believe that she struggled, although she would never admit it. Nannee was a smart woman, worldly wise, I’d say. She’d seen much in her lifetime; poverty and boons, war and peace, births and deaths.

She never hesitated to put a positive spin on any situation, often quoting condensed bible verses. When Jeff and I would take her to church, she’d always advise me that I could indeed take communion because it was “open to anyone.”  I’d just smile politely and shake my head, “No.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 09 if regrets really were a dime a dozen jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 

Counting in Moments

Before I began this WordPress journey, I used a now defunct free library blog. Before I began A Year of Memories, which is now in its second year, I would just write. Whatever was on my mind; informational editorials and advice, mostly to myself.

I often go back to my archives looking for a specific story: to find an outline, for the facts, for details and any memories I might have forgotten. I didn’t find what I was looking for tonight. I found April 16, 2013, instead.

There were paragraphs before this excerpt and paragraphs beyond, as well. It may seem like an interruption, but it’s a crucial part of the story. It’s what allowed me to have stories to share. I won’t lie and say from here on it will all be laughter. There are more sad moments coming. There are also tender moments, happy moments, hilarious moments.

Still, if there is only one lesson to be learned from storying the past, it is this:

Being pleased with your life is a wonderful long-term thing, but happiness…?
Happiness is a notch above, usually for a shorter time than we’d like.
How could we know what happy was if it didn’t sweep in and out of our lives?

Happiness can only be counted in moments.
So, count them.
Immediately.
Safe-guard the memories.

Someday ahead, you’ll need them to remind you
that you were indeed happy once, and for a while.

Trust that now may not be your time.
Act on this: happiness is something you can give away,
To whomever you choose;
even if you don’t have any, at this particular time.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 02 Happiness can only be counted in moments jakorte

“Whosoever trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” – Proverbs 16:20

Sweet Pea

I’ve always had a little trouble remembering Jeff’s birth date. I always got April, but I’d get confused about whether it was the 24th or 25th. Pretty much every year, I would pride myself on getting it right, and end up getting it wrong again.

I’d give him his card first thing in the morning, or maybe stealthily add it to his lunch bag. And then he’d look at me or text me, “Thank you. My birthday is tomorrow.” “I know,” I’d respond. “I just wanted to be the first.” Of course, Jeff knew better, but he never embarrassed me by saying so. I’d just make sure to run out for another card for the next morning.

In 2012, I did something that I felt required notifying Jeff’s family. It was after the fact, but still important so I broke the ice with a short email. “Thinking of you and Jeff today,” I wrote. The response I received was graciously humorous and something to the effect of, “I’m sure Jeff will be having lunch with Dale Earnhardt in heaven, tomorrow.”

Early on in our relationship, I started calling Jeff ‘Sweet Pea.’ Always privately, mostly on the phone and mostly at the end of our week night conversations. I’d say, “Goodnight sweet pea, love you.” He’d say, “Goodnight, I love you, too.”

If you think that would sound ridiculous coming out of my mouth, it did. And, it came out with an accidentally adapted light pseudo-southern/Nashvillian accent to boot.

I never thought much about how he’d feel about it. But, he never objected or said anything about it, either.

About two years into Michigan, Jeff pointed out to me my accent wasn’t as bad. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Your accent,” he repeated.  “I don’t speak any differently than I ever did,” I protested.

“Uh, huh,” Jeff nodded, retrieving his cell phone from his pocket.  He dialed emphatically, and handed it to me. “Just listen…” he advised.

And there I was listening to a two-year prior version of me deeply twanging my way through a typical voicemail greeting.

At a Flea Market one afternoon, I noticed an oversized cup with a flowery design and the words ‘Sweet Pea’ in an equally flowery font.

“I think I’ll buy you this cup for your birthday,” I teased. Jeff laughed, “Well, it is my birth flower.”

“Your what?” I asked. “My birth flower – it’s the sweet pea – it’s the April flower.”

“Really?” I countered. “I didn’t know that!”  He laughed again, but stopped short a few steps later.

“Wait,” he said as he turned to face me. “Why did you call me that then?

“I don’t know,” I said. “It just … popped out. Must have been that southern influence…”

“Well, I like it,” He confessed sincerely with his usual wide grin.

I smiled, too. I’m still smiling, actually.

Even as I say out loud tonight, “Happy Birthday in Heaven, Sweet Pea.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 04 25 the greatest gift you can give someone jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

There’s a flower for that: Actually, there are 2

Don’t Eat Them: Truly

Beautiful:  But, finicky

The Lilac Connection

The lilac connection is a curious thing.

Little by little I am hearing stories I’ve know nothing about. Like this one from Jeff’s brother, Eric:

“Lilacs played a huge part in Jeff’s life. There were lilacs in Papa and Nannee Vincze’s backyard.

We would play whiffle ball, catch fire flies, have parties and learn about life from our Grandparents in a backyard encircled by huge lilac bushes.

When my grandpa had his heart attack and was in the hospital, the lilacs were in bloom.

Each morning, my grandma would awake before dawn to spray water on them to keep the frost from killing them.

When he came home, he was sad to see all the freezer-burnt lilacs on the way.

But, when they pulled into the driveway, he saw all of their lilacs in full bloom…

an act of love.”

That story reminded me of another one that requires a bit of explanation.

Certain moments have stuck with, even as I’ve been oblivious for years. Sometimes, I am in the memory of the moment. Sometimes, I am an observer of events, watching us both make our way through the life we shared.

I don’t know why this one is an observer moment. I’m sure someday it will become clear.

When Sally passed, she was interred in Brookside Cemetery. Waiting at her gravesite, Jeff said he was glad she could be so near her father (Papa) and someday, her mother (Nannee.) It was a source of comfort for him.

I wish I could remember the exact words. I’m not even sure if Jeff was relaying it was Sally’s wish or if it had been his own comfort.

Anyway, there we were, slowly walking away from the ceremony, hand-in-hand, as usual.

Jeff stopped at a spot halfway between Sally and Popa. With a firm down-stroke of his chin and a leftward tilt of his head, Jeff made a nodding point toward a smallish bush.

Maybe he said, “At least…

Maybe he said, “I’m glad…”

But the last part of the sentence was, “… she can see the lilac tree from here.”

(You know, after the memory movie in my head ended, after I’d written it all down and re-read the story, it seems I don’t have to wait for that ‘someday’ answer. Something did become clear. It’s a good thing I learned to type without looking at the keys. I’m not sure I could have seen them through the tears, tonight. Because, remotely watching us standing made the mystery unravel. That spot Jeff stopped on turned out to be his. He can see the lilacs from there, too.)

Quote for the Week:

2017 04 11 We can spend a lot of time asking why or let the universe jakorte

 

Bonus Photo: through the power of Google Maps from my brother who knows how to use it: 2017 view of the Lilac and the Oak from last week’s ‘Lilacs’ blog.

Blackwood Road Screenshot_20170411-205227

via Daily Prompt: Unravel

Schmaltz from the Mustard Guy

Jeff & I talked about his possible conversion to Judaism, before and after our wedding.

He bought The Jewish Book of Why, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. By the end of those he knew more than I did about the history of Judaism. Which wasn’t that surprising. The Sunday school snippets I had studied 30 years prior, hadn’t stuck well, and was mostly lost due to our non-practicing dynamic.

Jeff studied The Joy of Yiddish that had come along with me in my book collection. I told him that was a mostly lost language, but he thought it would be fun to be able to throw terms at and around with my dad. He threw them at me, too. Those had stuck well, go figure.

I came home one day and found Jeff reading 1,000 Jewish Recipes… like a text book. Cover to cover. He did that with every cookbook. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone else who read cookbooks like Jeff.

I mentioned that I was surprised he’d done that. I wanted to know why he didn’t just pick a recipe and make something.  Jeff answered, “Well, you should never do something without knowing why you’re doing it. Might not come out right.” He always wanted to know why. Why do you add this after that? Why should you use this ingredient instead of that? In this case, he was looking for the history behind the recipes. So, he could learn a little more.

Let me tell you, Jeff made a mean rye bread and amazing latkes. Cooking was one of Jeff’s passion hobbies. He subscribed to cooking magazines, bought cookbooks, and visited many online recipe sites.

I definitely benefitted from that. He’d cook and I’d clean up, except when something shot up out of the food processor or mixing bowl. In that case (or those cases), Jeff was in charge of cleaning the ceiling and cabinet doors.

Years later, Jeff discovered a new vendor to help supply our store. He was tremendously excited. He emailed me and then he called me to make sure I saw the email. He couldn’t wait until I got home to tell me that he’d found us schmaltz supplier.

Schmaltz, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is gathered chicken or goose fat gathered from previous cookings. It’s a staple iin traditional Jewish cooking. Much the same as pig rendered southern lard.

We went to an Ann Arbor temple a few sporatic Friday nights. We’d stay in Ann Arbor after work, and have dinner before. We went to the Passover service and the Rosh Hashanah service. He enjoyed both, especially the shofar blowing.

The more he learned, the more aware became of similarities in our religions. He took the time to explain them to me. I knew very little about his, except for vague notions of Christmas and Easter and that their bible was very different.

We stopped going because it was getting more difficult to get there. Jeff’s work hours depended upon delivery assignments, and Friday nights were busy.

I’m still amazed that Jeff would even consider converting, so he could share Judaism with me. I never asked him to, and I never considered converting to Christianity.

But, truly, based on how things turned out, I know the reason he never got that far.

Quote for the Week:

2017-01-03-at-the-intersection-of-love-and-schmaltz-jakorte

Bonus: still makes me giggle…

 

2017-01-03-schmaltz-email-jakorte