March 24th, 2009


Grandpa and me (Kipling and rocketships and deck 'em)

There is a lot of stuff around here that Needs Doing. Just a lot. Laundry to shovel out and bills to pay and stories to submit and a million other mundane activities, to say nothing of the less mundane ones. Yesterday I decided that I am not taking my grandpa's birthday off my calendar, and I am not crossing his name out of my address book. If Grandma decides to sell the house, I will put in a new label with just her. But until then, I can't and I don't have to.

(A lot of people have asked if Grandma will decide to sell the house. The answer is that she has a lot to get through and think about right now, and nobody is in any rush for her to make that decision. For those of you who don't speak Scandosotan fluently, the implied addendum there is that the rest of us will Take It Poorly if someone else tries to push her on this.)

Anyway: there is a lot of stuff around here that Needs Doing, and I am still exhausted and having trouble eating and sleeping. So things are moving a bit slowly, and I would really like to ask your patience. If I seem to be acting as though you're stupid, please consider the idea that I might be stupid at the moment and not very well able to think past it.

Yesterday I took the two books I had borrowed from Grandpa off the "borrowed books" pile and put them on the fiction and nonfiction piles, respectively. I don't have all of Grandpa's books yet, but I took some home with me in addition to those two. There was a volume of Kipling that did not, as I expected, say, "R. W. Adams" on the flyleaf. It said, "Geo. W. Adams, 1936." It was Great-Grandpa's Kipling. This startled me. I knew Gran so well and saw so much of Gran in Grandpa that it's easy to forget how much of Great-Grandpa there was, too. It didn't really occur to me that Kipling was our thing because it had first been his with his dad.

One of the funerary customs of my people--which is pretty similar to the funerary customs of a lot of other people, though of course not all--is the ritual Pretending You Hadn't Heard That Story A Million Times Already. So you have probably heard this story a million times already, and some of the others I will tell, too, but your job here is to smile and nod along. (You are allowed to acknowledge already knowing the story if and only if you say something like, "I always liked that story.")

When I went off to first grade, we had a school "guidance counselor" who was apparently there to soothe our social transitions or something like that. She never guided me much, and I never wanted her to. Anyway, her name was Mrs. Way, and she was an extremely sweet woman. One day my mom got a phone call from Mrs. Way. "We were talking about conflict resolution today, Mrs. Lingen," she said, "and Marissa said that her grandpa says that if anybody gives her any trouble, she should just deck 'em. Mrs. Lingen, what's deck 'em?" So then my mom had to explain it to her.

Probably there was at least one person in my first grade class who would have benefited greatly and had a personal growth opportunity if only I had followed Grandpa's advice in this matter. I can certainly think of some examples since.

The one I couldn't fit into the flow of what I wrote for the memorial, but wanted to, was the story of Grandpa and me at Disneyland when I was 4. I liked Tomorrowland best--Tomorrowland was obviously the best--and I liked making Grandpa come with me on the rides. We were on a rocketship ride where the rockets went in a circle and you could move a joystick up and down to adjust your particular rocketship's altitude. Well, I had immediately grasped the joystick and was making it go UPDOWNUPDOWNUPDOWN, and Grandpa was turning a little green. "Say, Rissy," he said, "do you think I could have a turn?" I gave him a severe look and said, "Grandpa, I'm in control here."

I don't really feel like I am. One of the other questions people kept asking is that they ask various family members how other family members are doing. I kept overhearing Mom and Grandma on the phone, pausing a little and saying, "Well, she's having a pretty tough time with it. Grandpa was the moon and stars to her."

This is true.

Nothing says love like potatoes, whitefish, and dairy.

Dinner was a cooperative venture in both concept and execution. But it went pretty well, so I thought I'd put it here. If you don't eat dairy, fish, or shellfish, this will probably not be of much interest.

Peel and chop golden potatoes and Bartlett pears. Chop artichoke hearts. Skin and chop whitefish. Crack crab. Chop up pieces that are too big to eat. Chop scallops. Peel garlic and cut the funny bits off.

In a big pot, melt butter. Add potatoes, cayenne, sage, black pepper. Press in garlic. Cook. Add white wine. Cook. Put in pears and artichoke hearts. Cook. Put in veggie broth or chicken broth, fish, scallops, crab. Cook some more. Dump in milk and cream. Keep cooking. Decide that it is chowder now. Serve. If there is enough cayenne (do not skimp on the cayenne, unless you have a papersky or similar entity, in which case get a slightly different set of ingredients and use saffron instead, on which do not skimp either) you should not have to serve it with red pepper flakes at the table to add.

This would have been better if I'd had the time and energy to make rye buns, or even some other kind of bread, but it was still pretty nice without.