Mom’s 84, did I tell you? She has macular degeneration, two fake hips, two bum knees, and two shot shoulders. And she’s one of the happiest people I know. Always has that joy in her heart that can only come from above because, believe me, there ain’t much down here to put it there. About the only thing she can do these days is watch TV, and since she’s legally blind, even that can be challenging.
But she’s also adventurous, in her own way.
For the bulk of the years since Daddy passed away in 1997, she has used the oven for storage and the stove only for heating water for instant coffee (until she had a cancerous kidney removed and couldn’t have coffee anymore). If she absolutely must eat at the house, she uses her microwave and toaster oven.
At one point, she tried cooking again — nothing big, nothing fancy. She just put some eggs on to boil. And forgot them. Boiled the pot dry. Lucky she caught it before the eggs started exploding.
Long after the dried-eggs episode, she called me, all excited because she’d made her own breakfast: Hormel’s precooked bacon, Eggo waffles, and eggs scrambled “Linda” style. She loves my scrambled eggs, and she was tickled that she’d been able to make them just as I do. She had a great breakfast. Then she realized she’d forgotten to turn off the fire under the skillet. There’s something about the smell of overheated Teflon that you never forget. She probably won’t forget it ever again.
So, after all this, you can imagine how I felt when she called me (from 150 miles away) and told me she’d sent her helper to the store to buy some groceries. Della came home with some great rib-eye steaks, a couple of huge potatoes, a few pounds of 1015 sweet onions, and a packaged salad — the only thing on the list that seemed safe. Then Mom asked me how to cook it all.
What could I do? Suggesting she hire a personal chef was out of the question, so I told her what to do step by step, warned her that the knife is sharp, and reminded her to turn off the stove when she was done.
Let me tell you — there’s nothing stranger than giving cooking instructions to the one who taught you to cook. But a little while later, she called again. “Delicious!”
Experiment #1 was a success.
Experiment #2 came later. She wanted to make a beef hash just like she used to.
So, once again, I told her, step by step, how she used to make her hash. Guess what? Experiment #2 was a success too! She even saved me some.
And let me interrupt this post just long enough to say how special it is to have something Mom cooked after almost 20 years of her not cooking. Rare treasure.
In a way, I was happy that she’d returned to cooking. Looking forward to hearing of her culinary skills returning, hearing of her eating healthier meals. But you know what she said?
Cooking wears her out.
I can see that. Everything is a challenge for her, and she really can’t afford to make a mess in the kitchen, because there’s no one there but her to clean it up.
So I wasn’t surprised when she called last night and told me she’d ordered a cheese spud, a dozen wings, and a cobb salad from a local restaurant. God bless Delivery services. At least she won’t starve.
If your mama’s still with you, give her a hug. And if she can still cook, hug her harder.