This Friday’s post from July of 2009 was selected for two reasons. First, it shows how much life has changed in the last 7 years. Second, I love this picture. Rarely does this geranium plant produce such a perfect bloom and even more rarely are the blossoms so beautifully rain-kissed. Enjoy!
On this rainy Friday morning, I bustled around the house, opening window shades. The clouds were thick and the house was gloomy, so I eagerly coaxed the weak light that penetrated the clouds inside for a visit.
When I opened the shades to the patio, the blossoms of an heirloom geranium took my breath away. Mom gave me the plant over a year ago, when she still lived in her own home and had no idea she would soon break up housekeeping. Decades before her mother, Josephine Newell Hess, had given her a slip from the plant her mother, Cora Rose Newell, had given her a slip from in the 1940s.
Had Mom waited one more winter, it might have been too late to pass on the plant and the history behind it. In the past twelve months, Alzheimer’s has taken its relentless toll on her memory, stamina, and abilities. Our daily phone calls get shorter and shorter as she finds it increasingly difficult to hold up her end of a conversation. She still loves to read and do crossword puzzles, but has no interest in visiting friends or going new places. Quilting and jigsaw puzzles confuse her. She can’t make decisions.
Slowly but surely, Alzheimer’s is turning my steely, determined mother into a soft, hesitant whisper of a woman. But this morning, when I opened the shade and those bright red blossoms waved at me, they comforted me and reminded me that all is not lost.
“She’s with you,” they whispered. “She’s right here.”
“Thanks,” I said, and then I waved back.
In her prime, Mom was a sparkling conversationalist, She easily handled a variety of topics with great knowledge and wit. Her favorites were teaching, gardening, quilting, cooking and baking, reading, history, neighborhood gossip, genealogy, and family.
These days, her unprompted contributions to our Wednesday conversations consist of complaining about her runny nose and asking for tissues, gossip concerning fellow residents, reminders that she needs new library books, smack talk while we play Rummikub, reports of cards and letters received from family members, and stories about either her childhood or mine.
Every week, I try to draw her out a little while we waited for our meals to arrive at Applebee’s. “Did you fly kites when you were a kid?” I asked last Wednesday, which was a very blustery day.
“No,” she said. That was all.
I soldiered on. “Did you ice skate?”
She nodded. “Once. I fell on my butt/”
I persisted. “Did you roller skate?”
“Yes.” She brightened. “I liked to roller skate.”
“DId you skate outside or at a roller rink?”
“At a roller rink. In Pipestone.”
“Your family didn’t have much money. How did you pay for it?” I asked.
She shrugged. “My brother Wayne took us, I think. He was always kind. And my brother Ralph was a good skater. He could even skate backwards as well as I could skate going forward.”
Our food came then, and we stopped talking. But maybe it set her to thinking, because on the drive home, she brought up a new topic of conversation.
“What year did your dad die?”
“1997,” I replied. “19 years ago.”
“That’s a long time,” she said.
“Yes, it is,” I agreed. “Do you miss him?”
“A lot.” She nodded.
“Me, too,” I said.
“But missing a husband,” she went on, “is different than missing your dad.”
“I’m sure it is,” I said. “And in a way, you lost your husband twice. Once to multiple sclerosis and again when he died.”
“You’re right, Jolene,” she said before going quiet again.
It was the most substantial, thoughtful, and sweet conversation we’ve had in months. I looked at her and smiled. She smiled back.
We’re celebrating Christmas with the kids and grands early, so this week is wrapping week…not my favorite activity for these ten reasons.
10. I grew up trying to force reused, wrinkled wrapping paper that was always too small around boxes that were too big.
9. Next we topped the wrinkled paper with old bows, all of which had lost their sticky.
8. We always ran out of Scotch tape before we were done.
7. When we ran out of Scotch tape, Mom showed us how to use masking tape rolled inside out to hold the wrapping paper together. This tactic worked approximately 50% of the time.
6. She told us to use rolled up masking tape to stick bows on the packages, too. That worked approximately 25% of the time.
5. All of the above traumatized me, so I now avoid wrapping paper whenever possible.
4. So I’m in a catch 22 situation: If I seek immediate treatment for my wrapping paper phobia, I will not have time for wrapping presents.
3. Plus, as a result of the tendon I severed 2 months ago, my left thumb has a bad case of oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and is in therapy, too. Which means even less time for wrapping presents.
2. Though gift bags are the obvious solution to my gift wrapping issues, I am too much of a cheapskate to buy them. So I’ve developed this habit of saving gift bags from year to year and store them in a big drawer.
1. Every Christmas season, when I open the drawer and see the big pile of wrinkled gift bags, I realize that I’m more like Mom than I want to admit. And I thought Christmas was designed to gloss over harsh realities like that.
How about you? Do you love or hate wrapping presents? Tell us why in the comment box.
A couple weeks ago, a friend gave us oodles of apples from an apple tree that blew over in the wind. After they were delivered, the Man of Steel helped me freeze a whole bunch of applesauce, 3 apple pies, and 2 dozen apple dumplings. You’ll find the recipe for apple dumplings below.
Mom’s Apple Dumplings
Step 1: Make a batch of Grandma Conrad’s Never Fail Pie Crust. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
Step 2: In a saucepan, combine 2 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance Vegan Stick for a non-dairy version), and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
Step 3: Peel, core, and slice 6–8 cups of apples. Put them in a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix together until apples are coated with sugar and cinnamon.
Step 4: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take 1/4 of the pie dough and roll it into a rectangle about 15 inches long and 8 inches wide.
With a paring knife, cut the dough into 6 pieces.
Fill each section of dough with as much of the apple mixture as it can hold.
Fold the dough up and around the apples.
Place 12 dumplings in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Pour the syrup over the dumplings.
Bake the dumplings at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 30–35 minutes until the apples are soft when a fork is inserted into one of the dumplings.
Cool and serve with ice cream, milk, or half-and-half.
Camp Dorothy’s very own Thelma and Louise are home, dog-tired and sweaty, after a hot weekend on the road. And I mean hot. Really hot. How hot was it?
I’m glad you asked.
If you remember, the purpose of our trip was to attend the 67th high school reunion for Camp Dorothy’s namesake. The reunion supper was held in Pipestone, Minnesota’s historic hotel, the Calumet Inn. The Calumet was restored some years back, and just got a second facelift, courtesy of the folks at Hotel Hell.
I’m not making this up.
The weather turned hot, hot, hot on Saturday with heat and humidity both in the upper 90s. So the camp director made a recognizance run before the festivities, to scope out parking spots and the quickest, most stairless route for Dorothy. That done, the clueless camp director returned to the overnight digs so she and Dorothy could get all gussied up for a hot night on the town. Which turned out to be a whole lot hotter than anticipated.
Because the air conditioning was out at the Inn.
Though the staff had fans to keep the air moving, kept the ice water flowing, and even handed out damp, chilled washcloths, it was still hot. So hot my dress stuck to the varnish on the back of the wooden chair every time I leaned forward. So hot condensation puddles formed instantly beneath cold glasses. (BTW, it’s possible to surreptitiously wet one’s hand in the puddle and trickle water down one’s leg, arms, and cleavage without being detected. Don’t ask how I know this.) So hot the establishment treated everyone to a free round of drinks.
Why we didn’t pack up and move to an air conditioned venue?
Because once octogenarions get where they’re going they tend to stay put. Two members used walkers and three used canes, and though the remainder of the group was surprisingly spry and ambulatory, they were also sympathetic to the limitations of their former classmates.
So there we were, two hot babes out on the town.
One with her dress stuck to the back of the chair. The other swapping stories with former classmates. Both of them enjoying the music provided by a male quartet (with one member who graduated in 1942) whose only nod to the the heat was to sit on tall stools as they sang. Sure, we were hot. But, we were also alive.
What more could two hot babes out on the town wish for?