Everything Has A Story

“I put your spaghetti recipe on Facebook, Dad. A friend asked for it.”

“Well good, now when I go visiting maybe I’ll get spaghetti!”

Dad never gets tired of it. The recipe is his grandmother’s. As the legend goes, he learned how to make it from his mother and used it to earn his cooking merit badge toward his Eagle Scout grade, cooking it over a campfire he had built.

The cabin was filled with the smells I remembered as the sauce simmered and Dad sat on the couch reading. The same quilt Mom would throw over her legs, as she sat in the same place he was now sitting, reading, was over his, with Sam on top. “I never realized how worn out this was,” he said inspecting the seams.

“Maybe we can patch it up,” I offered. “Let’s check at Mann’s Mercantile for some hem tape.”

“Hem tape?”

“Yeah, you know, sticky on both sides….” I didn’t really know what I was talking about but I didn’t want the old quilt to wear out any more than Dad or me. But things do wear out, like people.

The German spaghetti is a simple recipe made with bacon, onion, and stewed tomatoes—probably the things they had on hand. “Put the sugar on the table,” Dad said as we sat down to dinner. “In case it’s not sweet enough.” That’s the secret ingredient. Sprinkle sugar on top as it cooks—it cuts the bitter in tomatoes.

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When Dad and I arrived here last week, the first thing we did was drive around the Island delivering Usinger Sausage gift boxes to his friends. Harold and Arbutus Greenfeldt, 95 and 92 respectively, were first on the list. I was looking forward to seeing them because when we stopped this past Easter weekend, I had waited in the car with Sam. Arbutus told Dad, “Next time bring Debbie in with you! We would love to see her too!”

Just a couple summers ago, we ran into Harold working at the Fishing Museum at Jackson Harbor. Arbutus was in a wheel chair by then but still playing the piano at church.

There was no car in the Greenfeldt’s garage when we drove up with the sausage so we moved them to the end of the delivery route and moved on to Martin, Dad’s cabin contractor. When no one answered there either, Dad opened the door and stepped inside, like you do on the Island. As he crouched down to set the box on the floor, I looked up just in time to see him tipping backwards, heading for the steps, but his arms flew out and he caught himself in the door-frame.

We finished the deliveries and stopped back where we had started, but Harold and Arbutus still weren’t home.

Driving back to the cabin, past the fields and farms, I thought about how Arbutus made the Island feel like home to so many, especially Mom, who would often say the Island reminded her of Lanark where she grew up.

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Arbutus directed the choir at Bethel church and played the piano for as long as I’ve been living, maybe longer. Mom and Dad were a part of the church like they were true Islanders. Mom played and sang whenever she was here and helped with worship. Dad designed and helped rebuild the old worn-out steeple. Mom was happiest when she could coerce us all into singing in the choir when the family was here together, filling out the soprano and tenor sections. Arbutus liked that too.

As I was making the spaghetti sauce that night, we got a call from Arbutus’ daughter, letting us know that she had passed away on June 4th. My heart sank as the sauce simmered. “Well, we’ll stop by and see Harold tomorrow,” I heard Dad say.

When I got up this morning, Dad was snoring on the couch. He had dozed off underneath Mom’s quilt. I made some coffee as Sam licked Dad’s face.

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It’s an Island day, windy and sunny. I walked out on the deck and looked at the water sparkling like jewels. I thought of Arbutus then, always an Island jewel.

Little Black Dresses?

Late last fall, Dad and I were in the car on our way to the Sunday service at a church he had designed. He’d been asked to give a talk on it for Doors Open the following week. It was a church designed with a hill around it, a solar tower and grass covered roof—green before too many architects were thinking green.

It probably would have been good to have asked him a question about the church that morning but instead I said, “I’ve been thinking about starting a new blog—one of my own—a place where my stories can live so they aren’t randomly mixed in with yours.”

“I think that would be good,” Dad responded.

“Really….?”

“You certainly are moving in several directions with your writing. Why, I think you’re going to end up with a series of books.”

“Really…? I’ve thought about a title for it, Not According to Plan……reflections on love, life and little black dresses.”

“…..Little black dresses…? I don’t think I like that. That’s what got Clinton into trouble.”

What? “…..I think that was a red dress, Dad….” But who cares?

“No….I don’t think so. I don’t like it.”  I will always be my dad’s daughter.

I turned and looked out the car window. Why that’s my most practical wardrobe staple! It can be worn day or night with boots, tights, jeans, heels, sandals, flats or…. I’ve worn little black dresses my entire adult life. I’ve learned to pack a suitcase with little more than a black dress. I felt accused of having dressed inappropriately for decades. My father’s opinion can do that to me.

“I’ve got my mind on my talk.” He said then. “I can’t think about this right now.” I let the subject drop. For months.

It had become clear not long after we started Sundays with Dad that the path we had started out on had turned into a landscape. I was writing more than Dad’s stories—which didn’t really go with the blog title. I could hear him thinking, why is that story there, stay focused Debbie.

I didn’t know when we started out that I was about to discover I liked writing stories as much as Dad liked telling them. So the space we shared became a little crowded. It amused me that even a cyber-home occupied by parent and child could reach a point when it was time for someone to pack up and move out.

We continued on though, with our shared blog space. I weaved my stories around his. We had fun. We made it work. I recorded the memories that shaped him into the man he is and some about me into who I am.

After writing my last story, My Baby’s Getting Married, I realized it was time for a change…one where I get to be the parent too.

If you want to follow me there, you can do it here Not According to Plan…..reflections on love, life and little black dresses..

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Dad has a new project in mind too, so Sundays will still be here.  I love my Sundays with Dad, and I love sharing them with you.