“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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.