Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life Rolls On...

Thanks for all the kind comments, both public and private, on my recent family losses. It really means a lot. I'm bouncing back, and life keeps rolling along. And I guess that's as it should be... to every season, blah blah blah. And right now, it's the season to reap the bounty of my haphazard gardening efforts. So far, not too bad this year.

Ouiser Boudreaux from
Steel Magnolias
Waaaay back in early March, I dug the garden plot and planted the usual: some tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. As I've said before, I think there's a law somewhere that mandates southern women to grow at least a couple tomato plants every year.
(Miss Ouiser would agree... "Because I'm an old Southern woman and we're supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don't ask me those questions. I don't know why, I don't make the rules!" Only I'm not that old, I don't generally wear funny hats or ugly clothes, and I actually DO eat tomatoes... especially homegrown ones!)

Here's what the garden patch looked like on planting day.

And here's what the cherry tomato plant looked like about a week ago.

The thief left behind evidence.

Not too many garden pests have found us yet this year, other than a bird or a squirrel or a rat that nabbed the first big ripe tomato the night before I planned to pick it. And then it rudely left the remnants of said tomato just a couple feet from the patch, just to rub it in I guess. Dang wildlife creatures!!

The herb garden in our front planter box was looking gorgeous a couple weeks ago. We've got radishes, basil, dill, cilantro, curly parsley, flat leaf parsley and chives. Unfortunately, aphids decided to decimate our radishes. We got a few tasty ones before they died off though. (Tasty radishes, not aphids. I have no idea whether or not aphids are tasty, and currently have no plans to research that subject.)

Currently sitting on my kitchen counter is this bunch of recently picked goodies... cherry and grape tomatoes, a bigger tomato and a couple of Mexibell peppers. Those Mexibells were labeled as being slightly hotter than regular bell peppers, but let me tell you what.... they really pretty hot!! They're not quite as hot as jalapenos, but close to the neighborhood. This is the first year I've planted that variety, and I'm surprised and delighted with their heat! I'll definitely look for them again next year.

As for those tomatoes, they are destined to make an appearance in tonight's dinner. They will be transformed into a tomato & fresh basil (from the herb garden) salad, with mozzeralla pearls and a balsamic and olive oil dressing. Mmmmm!! I think there are a few eggplants ready to pick as well, so I'll probably grill those up too. I'd invite y'all over, but I haven't dusted the house this week. (I really just don't want to share this fresh bounty, but as a southern "lady", I'm too polite to tell ya that.)

If you're growing stuff yourself, I hope your garden patch is pest-free, and that you have a bumper crop of your favorite veggies!

Thought y'all might want to see the transformation of the tomatoes above to the delicious 'mater/basil salad I whipped up last night. It was yummy! I made a little too much dressing, but that's okay... just need to dish it out with a slotted spoon.

If you'd like to make some yourself, all ya gotta do is cut up some cherry and/or grape tomatoes, chop or chiffonade some fresh basil, toss in some fresh mozzarella pearls or chunks if you like, and then douse it all with some kind of dressing to marinate for a little while. I made my dressing by whisking together some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a little sugar, a little salt, a little pepper and a couple of fresh garlic cloves run through a garlic press. Pour it over the salad and chill until you're ready to eat. Yum!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Had a Dad...

Dad c. 1987, at the last occasion
I saw him in person.
The monkey cage hasn't been a fun place lately. Last month, it was my Grandma. Last week, my father lost his battle with lung cancer. I am deeply saddened.

If you've read last year's Father's Day post, you know that we didn't have the "typical" father/daughter relationship. My dad battled some pretty vicious demons during his early adulthood. Mix those demons with alcohol and you've got a pretty combustive combination. As a child, I was mostly afraid of him. We never knew what might set him off, and it wasn't pretty when he exploded. I was only eleven when my parents split. A few months later he left the east coast and moved to Hawaii.

So there was a lot of distance between us, both geographically and emotionally. At one point, we had pretty much disowned each other. We reconnected when I was a young adult myself. The distance between us, and some pretty thick emotional scar tissue, made it difficult for us to forge a really close relationship. I don't know if things would have been different had we been closer geographically... maybe, maybe not... there was a lot of water under the bridge. But we managed to leave the past in the past, and built something of a new relationship that allowed us to at least get to know each other, as people, a little better. And for that I'm truly thankful.

As a person, my dad was an amazing man. He was one of the most intelligent people you could ever hope to meet. As I mentioned in that Father's Day post, he had photographic memory and genius-level IQ. He was also funny, and tough, and loyal to his friends. He was a leader, and accomplished many wonderful things for his community. I think as he got older, he mellowed. Maybe because he finally got his demons under control? I'd like to think so. The warmer, softer side of him was much more apparent. Living in a beautiful tropical paradise like Hawaii may have helped too. And I really think that his wife, the sweet Miss C, was a positive and calming influence on him.

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2010, we all held our breaths. Rounds of chemo and radiation followed. He did remarkably well! (There's that Scottish stubborn tenacity!) The tumors had shrunk and appeared to be stable, and the prognosis was good. Just this past November, all the docs seemed to think treatment was successful. And then my dad started having problems, particularly losing strength in his legs. At first, he thought it was lingering effects of the chemo and radiation. Unfortunately, in March, an MRI showed a couple brain lesions. The type of lung cancer he had is apparently notorious for spreading to the brain. So just when we thought he'd beaten it and would soon be back to normal, that fucking cancer sneaked back in through another entrance. (And there's this blog's first F-bomb... cancer deserves it.)

Dad and Miss C on a happy day in 2003.
He had a gamma-knife procedure on March 14th. The day after, he couldn't even stand. He was admitted to an inpatient rehab facility on March 20th in the hopes that he could regain some of his strength. From what Miss C tells me, Dad got more and more discouraged, and eventually it seemed like he gave up. He was in a lot of pain and not making much progress.

He was admitted to a hospice facility on April 20th. I was able to speak with him briefly that weekend. It was the first time in quite a while that we'd talked on the phone. We had e-mailed each other several times a week for years and enjoyed a friendly rapport, but phone conversations were rare... The time difference made calls difficult, but also for me (and maybe for him as well), they just seemed a little awkward and stiff. For some reason, it seemed harder to overcome the distance between us verbally. We didn't seem to have that problem when communicating via e-mail.

During our conversation, I wondered to myself if that would be the last time I'd get to speak to him. I didn't think it would be... I thought he had at least a little more time left. I'm so thankful that I had that opportunity to talk to him one last time. It meant even more to me than I thought it would.

I asked him if there was anything I could send him to enjoy while he was there in hospice.
 He said, "Yeah, Glenfiddich."
"Are you allowed to have that there?" I asked.
"I'm the king here... I can have anything I want!" was his reply.
I laughed and told him I'd see what I could do.

"Is there anything else I can do for you, Dad?" I asked.
He said, "Just make me proud."

I know he was proud of me. After we reconnected twenty-some-odd years ago, he often told me he was. And I know we loved each other in our own dysfunctional way, even if it WAS at somewhat of a distance. I'm glad he was proud of me, and I'm very proud to be his daughter.

Miss C tells me that she's thinking of having just a very small memorial service with close friends and family at the Buddhist temple her mother belonged to. She says Dad really liked that temple, and that he had come to appreciate many of the aspects of Buddhism, though not necessarily as a religion (just as I have... go figure!).  So I think he'd really like that.

Sadly, I won't be able to attend. While the geographic distance between us may have made things a little more comfortable in the past, right now I wish I was close enough to be there. When he seemed to have beaten the cancer back in November, I thought I'd try and save up and maybe plan to finally get out there in the next couple years for a visit with him, and spend a few days getting to know him a little better in person. I'm truly sorry that I won't get that opportunity. Some day, though, I'll make it out there. I'd like to finally meet Miss C in person, and see the place that Dad called home for over 30 years.

For now, I think I'll go and get myself a bottle of Glenfiddich. When his memorial service is happening in Hawaii, I'll pause whatever I'm doing here and toast his memory. I really don't like Scotch (or any whiskey for that matter), but I'll drink it anyway in honor of my dad. I have a feeling that with Scotch... just as in our relationship... once you get past the bitterness, there's a pleasant warmth to enjoy.

Mahalo, Dad.
A hui kaua.