She wants to do it herself. We had a tough for me conversation this morning about issues we trip over as travel the annoying twisty road of Parkinson. It started out as, you know I can still do stuff.
This was a response to me speculating about learning to make my own piecrust instead of buying a commercial piecrust. I will take the path of least resistance every time I can. There are enough things to staff, organize and worry about. If someone has already made the piecrust, I am good with that.
I buy salad in a bag too. Dump and go. Chop a tomato and it is salad. Dressing is in the fridge.
She remarked that she could make a pie and that she knew how to make piecrust. Naturally I forgot about what I have been attempting to practice on a daily basis. I started to enumerate the negatives. I caught myself before I got too far into the ditch along side this partially paved macadam thoroughfare.
It is Lenten season. Instead of chasing some carryout fish fry from our parish we had the makings of tuna casserole. An old time favorite from the Dinner for Two Cookbook by Betty Crocker (You can still find one if you poke around.) Remember Betty Crocker? She is my go to for a lot of things. That seemed like an easy thing and she likes it. I said why don’t you make the tuna casserole and we can have the leftover pie for dessert.
We attended a discussion in the afternoon about newer drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease and when they are used and how they worked. When we returned I attended to the laundry and then busied myself with work for my job at our local community college where I teach part time.
She announced she was going to start on the tuna casserole. It was three pm. I spent the next hour listening and worrying and occasionally sneaking a peek into the kitchen twenty feet away. After a few misfires on her part she got started with minor aid from me. She put all the ingredients into a Corning ware bowl and mixed it. She used to know how to start the oven but that knowledge and skill has been lost to Parkinson. I told her which buttons to push and it clicked on.
I went back to work on my project but gave it up for a bit when the oven played its happy tune to announce it was up to temperature and waiting. I went in for the oven placement of the casserole. She put it in but I worried while watching. (Maybe I am a worry wart.)
I suppose there is a good mechanical engineering reason for oven doors to open as they do. I have not seen one built so that door opens any other way but down. A standard range winds up with the door about a foot off the floor so that the person reaches down into the oven from three feet away. It looks to me like a disaster waiting to occur. I hovered nearby as she put the casserole into the oven and then put on oven mits to get something from the fridge.
We ate about an hour ahead of when we usually eat but time and calendar and sunrise and sunset seem to have less meaning for her. It is time for us to start eating dinner at four pm like the rest of the old folks.
Wendell Berry is a writer who lives in Kentucky probably not too far from where I live. I do not remember exactly where I tripped over his work but I am currently reading his novel Hannah Coulter which is a story about a farm matron and growing up, farming, marrying, getting widowed and living life in Port William during the mid to last years of the last century. Port William is a mythical place but may have been a real place at one time along the Ohio river near what is now Carrollton. There are a few facilities that bear the name Port William.
There is a very touching – to me – scene in one part of the book where an older member of the community group plays the hymn Abide with Me on his fiddle one evening. The hymn was written approximately one hundred years before the scene in the book takes place. I reproduce the lyrics here. Like many old hymns there seems to be several slightly altered versions. These lyrics come from England. The spirituality is very strong regardless of your religious bent.
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide: when other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, O abide with me.
I need thy presence every passing hour; what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless; ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death’s dark sting? where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes; shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies; heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
These words were originally written by Henry Francis Lyte who passed away in 1847. The words still convey a powerful prayer of want and hope. Stand with me Lord, abide with me. I have no where else to turn except to you. We are here for a short time. Stand with me while I am here.
Some days things just seem to go better with pie. If you want to lift your spirits a bit, make a pie. Whatever kind of pie you want, just make one. You can buy a pie of course, and that will settle the need for a sugary delight, but if you want to ignore the world around you for a while, make your own pie. It might turn out ugly but it is yours and it will taste scrumptious.
I have been down on myself for a few days. I think I worry for the folks in Ukraine. I do not know anyone in Ukraine but it is kind of stinky that a short guy with big army and navy can just drive over the fence and poop on the short guy without a big army and a navy with only one boat. That situation just sucks.
This is an ongoing conversation in our house. Cheryl struggles enough with day to day things. She fears for those mothers and children showing up at the Polish border behind the reporters that flew there in order to record the history of the short guy beating up the other short guy. From the news reports it looks as though the partisans are taking root in Ukraine and in Russia they are taking a nap. The world markets are yinging and yanging around and today I paid $4.999 a gallon for 12 or so gallons of gas to fill up my car. It was the first time I have spent more than $50 to fill up a car. That situation just sucks.
Time to make pie and eat it.
This particular recipe guidance is a favorite one. As you can see specific types of apples and the resulting pie has been noted by Cheryl. When she drug me down the cooking road a couple years ago I picked up what we call the “Big Green Cookbook”, so called because it is about two inches thick and has a green cover, to learn how to do pies. This book reads much like my grandmother’s cookbook that is a collection of church ladies’ recipes entitled “Culinary Cullings” from a farming community in Rich Hill, Missouri.
“6 apples” but no reference to general size. “1/2 to 2/3 cup”is the same as writing some but not too much. It makes me smile to read these measurements. (1 recipe plain pastry — but no hint about where to find that.) I have modified and added to the instructions myself. Since it is unspecified I use dark brown sugar with my teaspoon of cinnamon. I also add a couple tablespoons of tapioca. I got this last one from my mother who learned how to make pie from my grandmother. I think I got my bravery to adjust ingredients and try new spices from Mom. She was pretty damn good cook and liked to have a gin and tonic while doing it. Perhaps I will try a gin and tonic with my next pie.
So today is PIE day. A little early actually because the math enabled folks celebrate 3/14 as pi day. But I digress.
For a short time this afternoon I have bumped Cheryl off of her worries and anxiety about world idiots.
After the pie got to the condition shown above I went of to find the big round Tupperware pie saver we have owned since about 1975. Gone. I was worried that Cheryl had put it in a special place so that it would not get messed with by the little girls that live in her head. I put out a text query to the kids and found out I had left it at our son’s house. I probably took a pie there.
She asks me if we are staying here tonight. It is a repetitive theme in her thinking and confusion. Not knowing any better I try to answer her honestly and without any teasing (which she does not understand anyway). Looking at my old notebooks and blog posts it seems that this particular confusion and some others, who I am, for example, have a cyclic appearance.
That was last night. This morning she wants to pack a suitcase for college. The idea that she needs to get ready to go off to college is totally new. The college she wants to go to happens to be the one I am a graduate of and our grandson has been accepted into for the Fall semester. These facts are probably all tumbled up in her head and sort of explain her confusion.
Another interesting nuance is conversing with me as though I am an acquaintance, someone she has not spoken with for some time. We are catching up. We spent most the of the day talking in the third person as though acquaintances. It was a warm late winter early spring sunny day so we took a walk in the park. We talked about many things. We talked about the weather of course. We talked about how far you used to be able to see across the little creek we were walking next to. On the other side of the creek is a concrete and asphalt reclamation business with mountains of paving to crush and recycle. It once was a smaller pile of refuse.
We talked about children. She told me about hers and asked me about mine. She was amazed and intrigued by the fact that our children had the same names. It seemed that the only difference was that her children were in their teens and twenties and my children were middle aged. (smiley face here) It was unimportant to her that these teenagers had children which were her grand children. These conversations were hard to follow but I was able to ask questions and find out more like any good friend would. Most of the time I was able to keep the tears out of my eyes as we created a memory of a good day for her.
She suddenly switched topics and talked about what to do about Thanksgiving dinner. I gently pointed out that it was barely March and Thanksgiving day plans were several months away. Undaunted she replied that it would be here quicker than you think. There is a lot of truth to that last comment. I have noticed as I get older the year goes by quicker.
I promised to get right onto organization of who does what. I fired off a text message to our family text-party line and got positive responses from everyone. Our daughter volunteered to host.