My Dad and his Cadillac both sprung a leak last week. Both had to go into the shop so a mechanic could look under the hood. It took awhile to get them back home. But they got patched up so that they wouldn’t leak fluids anymore and both came home on the same day.
The car was put to bed early, and Dad told Mom and me what he felt like eating for dinner. All of his food choices were beige: Atlantic cod with mild curry sauce, Yukon gold potatoes (There’s an ‘e’ in the plural, right?), steamed cauliflower, and an Italian chardonnay. It was the end of a very hot day, so I put electric candles on the table instead of lighting votives. And I decided to decorate tranquilly with soft green linens, bamboo placemats, and piano music in the background. After I was done, I told Mom that I was going for some type of a feng shui effect. Known for not being subtle and liking lots of color, she responded by saying that ‘feng shui’ was Mandarin for ‘being dull’.
We sat down to dinner as the heat of the day began to fade away. The light had begun to shift to dusk, and I sat facing the windows so that Mom could read my lips during the dinner conversation. Her deafness caused by radiation treatments is complete but often imperceptible because she has adapted so quickly. But she is frustrated and isolated if she can’t watch your mouth as you speak. I wear darker lipstick sometimes to help her see my movements more clearly. Plus I think it looks neat.
Dad commented about how perfect the beige food was, and we believed him. He always has liked Atlantic cod, and it used to be a big seller at our parents’ seafood restaurant. That was where all of us learned the lost art of counting back money, how to butterfly shrimp, and how to make tarter sauce in gallon-sized batches. Fridays were always a big night for us because of the Catholics, and Good Friday was always the biggest.
Mom commented that Fridays were always the best night of the week when she was a kid back at Willow Springs Camp on Lake Texoma in Texas. Everyone would be ready for company to drop in, and her parents would cook over a bonfire in skillets full of grease, not Smart Balance. They would offer up soft-shell turtles – which taste just like rabbit – and fresh-caught bass. The best fishing was when the moon would rise. Only then would they drop their lines into the water. The wise prey would bite without needing bait because the silhouette of the hook was dim enough to look like something edible. Mom and her family would pull them out of the water as fast as they could set the lines. Everything would be cleaned within yards of where they had been caught and be served up without ever having to share the plate with any kind of vegetables.
One night after LBJ had come by, Papa commented, ‘God help us all if he ever runs for President.’ During the times that Gene Autry came by, the small girl that was my mother was too shy to ask him directly why he got married so often. After seeing every movie he was in and with every one having a happy ending, Mom would tell her mom that Mr. Autry again had another new wife. Grammie would ask her if this was make believe in the movies or was in real life. With a child’s confusion, little Peep-Eye VanHorn would say, “No, Momma! It was real!”
Tex Ritter…Bob Wells and the Texas Playboys…I need to remember to ask her if they played music when they ate by the Friday night family bonfires. Wild Bill Elliot – who was cast as one of the Red Ryders for Republic Pictures – was one of Mom’s favorites, and he joined the lakeside gathering sometimes. The closest to Six Degrees of Separation math I’ve accomplished on this is having a friend from karaoke in the Valley who played on a Rec league baseball team with Peter Billingsley who played Ralphie on “A Christmas Story”, the one who pined away for a Red Ryder BB gun.
I poured Dad a wee bit of wine into his glass yea high according to Canadian custom. We remembered how driving along the coast highway on the way to the hospital he had wanted to spend the day on the beach instead of going to the ER. Overdue for a haircut from me, he looked shaggy and surfing ready if his cheeks hadn’t been ash colored from everything that was going on. We laughed as we reviewed the peculiar similarity of his treatment at the hospital to things that happen at the Club. With a civilized amount of insurance and a body that requires billable services, he is one of the rock stars of the American health care system. And as I hung out around his room hoping for a glimpse and a smile, I was a groupie in his entourage.
As the night began to completely descend on us, I cleared the table while Mom and Dad went onto the back patio with the faux leopard blanket to cuddle with the dogs and look for shark fins in the water, their nightly ritual. I watched their silhouettes as I cleaned the kitchen and put away the last of the beige food.
We had finished another day again together.
Quote of the Blog from George Lucas: “If a boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds $10 million to the box office…”
Image of me trying to get some sunshine before it falls into the ocean following a long weekend of shows, courtesy of my sister’s cell phone.