Goodbye Doesn’t Mean Forever

I wrote this post 3 years ago, in February of 2013.  David and I had been married that December and were especially thrilled that David’s dad, Dave, was able to stand beside him in the ceremony as Best Man.  We lost Dave on January 28th, barely a month later, to his battle with cancer.  

He was a great man, and the Dave-shaped-abyss he left in our worlds is enormous.  I’d like to share my tribute to him, one more time, today – the day that would have been his 82nd birthday.  He is so very greatly missed.

Re-posting from February 4, 2013

Last week, my father-in-law, Dave, passed away.

xmas 036

He valiantly fought third-stage, non-small cell lung cancer for fourteen months, holding his ground through a debilitating regime of radiation and chemotherapy.

Ultimately, damage to his lungs from COPD did him in; snatching him from us with little warning and brutal speed. There was barely time to make the calls.

The whole family flew in from California, Michigan and Florida. They surrounded his bed and held his hands as he crossed over. Although he never fully woke from the heavy sedation, I know he knew they were there, and I know that made him happy. He was all about his wonderful family and each and every one of them is a living testimonial to him: in looks (I have determined there are no adopted Strohmans), personality and character.

IMAG1899

I was privileged to know him only a brief time, but it didn’t take me long to realize the person he was.

He was a man of high integrity and great spirit, with a story for every occasion. A man of wit and a jubilant jokester, he delivered a punchline with rapier grace.

A thoughtful and thinking man, he remembered the names of all who touched his life, no matter how briefly.

A decorated Air Force veteran, he traveled the world from Africa to China and beyond, parlaying his military experience into a career building nuclear power plants and submarines. He was so in demand for his skills and expertise that the company he worked for, Bechtel, lured him twice out of his well-earned retirement to construct or refurbish critical plants.

His greatest pride was his family: Linda, his beautiful wife of fifty-seven years; his five children, eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren: all to whom he was a living legend, a loving patriarch, the font of most knowledge, and the best friend and dad in the world.

IMAG1898

He didn’t give a fig for the socially prescribed rites: the somber funeral; the weepy, graveside service. Instead, he wanted a huge party, with everyone wearing crazy hats from his vast collection of brims, bonnets and chapeaus; telling tall tales and remembering him with joy.

His lifelong motto was adamantly (and famously), “No Whining,” and he was determined to go out the way he lived, with humor and grace.

We decided to honor him with a celebration of life at the family home in Augusta, so everyone could come together to venerate his legacy. In the days leading up, as people poured in from all parts, each contributed in their own way.

DSCF1126

The grandchildren, cousins and sons-in-law set up the tent, dragging out chairs and tables, hanging twinkle lights, draping everything with colorful vintage linens and filling the room with all the flowers and plants sent by loved ones. Vicky, Debbie and Cindy, David’s three sisters, cooked and baked for days, making pies, brownies and a massive chili bar with every kind of topping and condiment imaginable.

DSCF1146

Aunt Kathi, Cousin Christa and I spent hours going through my mother-in-law Linda’s enormous archive of photographs. We plucked digital memories like a bouquet of blossoms, savoring the brightest and sweetest, printing them for decorations and assembling clips and pictures for my husband, David; who composed a brillant video tribute to his father, full of images, favorite songs and soundbites from years of family movies.

DSCF1217

Moment arrived and all gathered, fighting tears and hugging each other close, we revered his memory, acknowledging the enormous Dave-shaped hole in our homes and hearts and lives. With food and drink, laughter and song, jokes and stories, we poured out our love to him and each other.

IMAG1926#1

Linda is a member of the Red Hats, an organization of ladies dedicated to living their lives to the fullest. In an amazing gesture of  loyalty, that day at 3 p.m., hundreds of Red Hats from all over the country raised a glass of Vodka and Diet Sprite, Dave’s favorite drink, and released balloons into the heavens.

IMAG1921

We, too, set loose balloons and toasted Dave. Each of us bid him adieu in their own fashion: a final salute to husband, dad, father-in-law, uncle, grandfather, neighbor and friend.

As the colorful globes soared into the vast blue sky, I remembered a line from a favorite book, Richard Bach’s Illusions.

“Don’t be dismayed by goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

IMAG1922

It might be goodbye, but that doesn’t mean forever. Farewell and fare well, dear friend, until we meet again. Our love travels with you.

Advertisements

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday with my family.

IMG_0439

I am so thankful that I got to see my sister-cousin, Patti!

IMG_0442

I am so thankful for the very grand dinner…

IMG_0446

A Honey-baked ham, roasted turkey, crawfish dressing (and plain cornbread dressing), mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, squash casserole, praline sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberries, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and brownies.

IMG_0451

I was grateful to enjoy all of my favorite foods!

IMG_1988

I was blessed to be able to spend time with my little niece, Livvy.

FullSizeRender-2 copy

I had the pleasure of playing with Betty, the Boston Terrier.

FullSizeRender-2 copy 2

I was extra-thankful that David’s Mom Skyped in so she could join the festivities!

And I was truly thankful for all the laughter and joy that filled the day.

IMG_1976

My dad creates an elaborate ceremony of dubbing visitor Grace an honorary Ferguson

IMG_1978

Grace was very good-spirited about the whole thing (or maybe she’d mustered her courage with some good spirits). Anyhow, perfect Ferguson material.

IMG_0431

“I dub thee Gracie Ferguson!”

IMG_0436.JPG

Newest turkey in the crew!

Mostly, I was overwhelming thankful for the outpouring of love and acceptance from my family.  It’s there on Thanksgiving as well as the other 364 days each year.

IMG_0419

I am a very thankful girl!

I hope you all had a lovely day filled with the things you are thankful for.

“I am grateful for what I am and have.  My Thanksgiving is perpetual.”

Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Food and Family

Since we are rolling into Thanksgiving with all the wonderful and sometimes bittersweet memories that holidays pack with them in their luggage, for this week’s Moonshine Challenge at yeah write thought I would re-post something I wrote for last April’ s A-Z Challenge, A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South.    This post was letter “F.” 

I do hope you enjoy, and that it brings back good remembrances for you, too, of meaningful meals with your family and friends and all of the love that was the primary ingredient.

I still crave my grandmother’s cooking, although she’s been gone now for more than 15 years.

My Granny

My Granny

She wasn’t a “chef,” or a fancy cook, but she prepared delicious, abundant meals and she poured her love for her family into every casserole and every slice of cornbread. I think because she and my granddaddy had lived through the Depression, when times were so hard and food was scarce, it was important for her afterwards to make a feast of every family meal.

Sunday dinner at my Granny’s was a momentous occasion. (And Sunday dinner means lunch, by the way. In the old South, “supper” is the evening meal.)

She started cooking for Sunday on Saturday morning.

She always had two or three meats (ham, a beef roast, fried chicken, fried catfish or country-fried steak with white gravy) along with one or two types of potatoes (mashed with gravy/sweet potato casserole/potato salad), a vegetable medley casserole, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, fried summer squash, fried sweet corn, green beans, slow cooked turnip greens with fatback, fresh sliced tomatoes in the Summer and fried green tomatoes in the Spring, and my all-time favorite, cornmeal–battered okra (the super crispy, slightly burned pieces are the best).

Hushpuppies, fresh-baked cornbread, yeast rolls and biscuits to sop up the gravy, or to slather with butter and her homemade plum jelly. Coconut cake, banana pudding, pecan pie, strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler would satisfy your sweet tooth (should you have any energy left to open your mouth.)

I have dined at some of the finest restaurants in this country. I’d trade every one of those meals for one more chance to sit at her table.

Of course, she never sat at her own table. She bustled throughout the entire meal, filling up glasses with iced tea and water, fetching a fresh batch of biscuits from the oven, replenishing the chow-chow. After everyone else had stuffed themselves senseless, and the table was cleared, she might stop a moment for a small plate for herself.

She was always urging you to eat more. “But your plate is empty!” she’d wail.

Biscuits, butter and jelly

Biscuits, butter and jelly

Bulging eyes, tightening belts, groaning tummies and protests of being “full as a tick” had no impact: She’d just sniff and mourn that “you must not have liked it.”

Jewish grandmas got nothing on Southern grannies for food and guilt.

There are days when I yearn for for the food of my childhood.

Her food.

I’ll pick up squash and fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market. I even bake biscuits. I have the technology, recipes and equations that should make them taste the same, but they never do.

Southern food is au courant. Farm-to-table is all the rage. You can spend a fortune on something called “soul food” in trendy restaurants in New York, Chicago and L.A.

The true soul of Southern food isn’t just grits and greens, though; it’s the passion that goes into making them.

It’s the time and care in the cooking, the bond of the family at table; the joy of generations sharing stories and sustenance, passing down the memories along with the recipes.

It’s my Granny, piling up my plate not just with food, but with her love.

“We believed in our grandmother’s cooking more fervently than we believed in God.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer

F

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Sunday November 15, 2015.

#WeekendCoffeeShare was created by Part Time Monster. I’ve always wanted to participate, so this morning, I made an extra pot and I hope you’ll join me.

If we were having coffee…

I would tell you that we are spending the weekend in Augusta, visiting David’s Mom. We haven’t been here in a couple of months, due to my insane debilitating ruthless super-busy work schedule, so the first thing my husband did was tackle the yard, which is huge and needed a lot of attention. I threw on some old shoes and helped him as much as I could, dragging away ivy clippings and the crepe “murder” limbs from his pruning and loading them up in a cart to dump in the woods.  He was happy for the help – I’m not normally much of a “yard-work” kinda girl.

IMG_1841

I would tell you how nice it was to see David’s family. His sister Debbie and her husband are visiting from California and we had an “early Thanksgiving-inspired” dinner together last night.  Southern-style holiday food (roasted turkey, cornbread dressing and gravy, potatoes and cranberry sauce) is my favorite food in the world and I could eat it for days.

After dinner, we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the umpteenth million time, as it’s a Thanksgiving tradition in both our families.  My sister will cry “traitor!,” but I’m really okay about not seeing it again until next year.

Very little chance of that happening, though.  ::sigh::

If we were having coffee….

I would tell you that Friday night we watched CNN’s coverage of the horror as it transpired in Paris, just as I’m sure you did.  My heart breaks for all of those who lost loved ones, and I’m more frightened than ever of what our world is becoming.  The only solace is the outpouring of love and support being shown world-wide.  Maybe we’re not as jaded and cynical and self-centered as I sometimes despair – perhaps there’s enough light in us as a people to drown out this darkness and evil.  I would tell you that I’m sending prayers, good energy, positive thoughts (the intentions are the same whatever you prefer to call it) towards the healing of those affected by this tragedy.

Wait, I’m so sorry…may I pour you another cup? 

If we were having coffee…

I would tell you I’m starting to get excited about the upcoming holidays.  I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’ll get to take off for a few days then and probably a whole week at Christmas.

I love this time of year, with so many opportunities to celebrate with the people you love.  (And parties, dressing up, ice-skating, delicious food, twinkly lights and decorations make it even better!)

If we were having coffee…

I’d tell you that I’m feeling very lucky to have made it half-way through NaBloPoMo/Nanopoblano.  I’m a little disappointed with myself – I haven’t written as much or as well as I feel I did last year.  I just don’t have many words right now…maybe it’s just the mental beating I’m taking at work or maybe I just haven’t found my sea legs yet.  I have really enjoyed the writing challenges over at Yeah Write – I haven’t done much “creative writing,” and the microstory challenge is proving to be so much fun: crafting a story in only 42 words.  It delights the wordsmith in me, changing and exchanging adverbs and adjectives, polishing, refining – there are so many words in the English language, but there is truly a “right” word for exactly what you are trying to say. It’s tremendously exciting to hone a tiny amount of language into a larger “story.”

IMG_1844

If we were having coffee…

I’d tell you how lovely it’s been hanging out with you and how much I would look forward to you joining me next week.  Are you sure you won’t take some pumpkin bread “to go?”

I’d also like to thank Nerd in the Brain – I’ve enjoyed her “if we were having coffee” posts so much, it inspired me to brew up a pot and join you all!  I hope you have a wonderful week!

 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Kinfolks

“Who are her people?”

A totally legitimate question in the South, where who you are related to is almost as important as who you are.

100_1726

I’m kin to a big ol’ bunch of fruitcakes.

“Being Southern isn’t talking with an accent…or rocking on a porch while drinking sweet tea, or knowing how to tell a good story. It’s how you’re brought up — with Southerners, family (blood kin or not) is sacred; you respect others and are polite nearly to a fault; you always know your place but are fierce about your beliefs. And food along with college football — is darn near a religion.”
Jan Norris

K

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Food, Family and Memories

I still crave my grandmother’s cooking, although she’s been gone now for more than 15 years.

My Granny

My Granny

She wasn’t a “chef,” or a fancy cook, but she prepared delicious, abundant meals and she poured her love for her family into every casserole and every slice of cornbread. I think because she and my granddaddy had lived through the Depression, when times were so hard and food was scarce, it was important for her afterwards to make a feast of every family meal.

Sunday dinner at my Granny’s was a momentous occasion. (And Sunday dinner means lunch, by the way.  In the old South, “supper” is the evening meal.)

She started cooking for Sunday on Saturday morning.

She always had two or three meats (ham, a beef roast, fried chicken, fried catfish or country-fried steak with white gravy) along with one or two types of potatoes (mashed with gravy/sweet potato casserole/potato salad), a vegetable medley casserole, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, fried summer squash, fried sweet corn, green beans, slow cooked turnip greens with fatback, fresh sliced tomatoes in the Summer and fried green tomatoes in the Spring, and my all-time favorite, cornmeal–battered okra (the super crispy, slightly burned pieces are the best).

Hushpuppies, fresh-baked cornbread, yeast rolls and biscuits to sop up the gravy, or to slather with butter and her homemade plum jelly.  Coconut cake, banana pudding, pecan pie, strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler would satisfy your sweet tooth (should you have any energy left to open your mouth.)

I have dined at some of the finest restaurants in this country. I’d trade every one of those meals for one more chance to sit at her table.

Of course, she never sat at her own table. She bustled throughout the entire meal, filling up glasses with iced tea and water, fetching a fresh batch of biscuits from the oven, replenishing the chow-chow. After everyone else had stuffed themselves senseless, and the table was cleared, she might stop a moment for a small plate for herself.

She was always urging you to eat more. “But your plate is empty!” she’d wail.

Biscuits, butter and jelly

Biscuits, butter and jelly

Bulging eyes, tightening belts, groaning tummies and protests of being “full as a tick” had no impact: She’d just sniff and mourn that “you must not have liked it.”

Jewish grandmas got nothing on Southern grannies for food and guilt.

There are days when I yearn for for the food of my childhood.

Her food.

I’ll pick up squash and fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market.  I even bake biscuits. I have the technology, recipes and equations that should make them taste the same, but they never do.

Southern food is au courant.  Farm-to-table is all the rage.  You can spend a fortune on something called “soul food” in trendy restaurants in New York, Chicago and L.A.

The true soul of Southern food isn’t just grits and greens, though; it’s the passion that goes into making them.

It’s the time and care in the cooking, the bond of the family at table; the joy of generations sharing stories and sustenance, passing down the memories along with the recipes.

It’s my Granny,  piling up my plate not just with food, but with her love.

“We believed in our grandmother’s cooking more fervently than we believed in God.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer

F

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Daddy’s Girl

Yes, I am a Daddy’s girl. Since I am also a Southern girl, there is no shame in this at all.

Regardless that I am a forty-something adult woman, it is not only perfectly normal, but socially acceptable for me to still call him Daddy.  Not Dad, not Jim.

(In the South, btw, Daddy is actually pronounced \ˈdeh-dē\ or “deddy”) 

383614_10151224165692561_295008258_nThere is a special relationship between Southern girls and their fathers.

Southern mamas teach their daughters to be strong women; but their fathers teach them that they are invincible princesses with arcane superpowers who should be treated with monumental respect.

Daddies teach their girls that they are brilliant and beautiful, worthy of love and loving and can do anything they put their minds to: start a business, be an astronaut, be president of the United States, be happy and fulfilled.

8895_10151224165697561_1369087551_nMy Daddy didn’t raise me to believe that my goals in life were defined by my gender.  He taught me to be smart and quick and strong and give my best.  And if I worked hard and believed in myself and what I was doing, I could have or be anything I wanted.

He taught me integrity by daily example.

3893_10151224525612561_1448443929_n

He taught me to win without vanquishing others.

He taught me a love of learning.

224916_10151224165792561_1162369545_n-2

He taught me that if I ever borrowed anything, I should give it back better than I got it.  Don’t just fill up the gas tank, wash and wax the car.

He taught me to be a good friend and told me that was the most important thing I could be in life.

My Daddy is my hero. Now and always.

232323232fp;nu=3242>66->;-7>WSNRCG=35<5;84975339nu0mrj-1

One of the (few) benefits of being older is that my father is now my friend.  My husband and I not only vacation with my parents, but we have dinner parties with them. We go to the beach together.  We enjoy their company.  We hang out.

We are good friends.

541674_10151224165902561_1342225598_n

I am eternally grateful for the strengths he gave me.  He not only taught me to believe in myself, but gave me a port in the storm and a shoulder to cry on for those times I didn’t.  He has always been there for me.

Me and my awesome Dad.

Me and my awesome Daddy.

I am proud to be a Daddy’s girl.  My Daddy’s girl.

We pick our battles and fight with the heart of a pit bull while still maintaining grace and elegance. Our mystique is that of a soft-spoken, mild-mannered southern belle who could direct an army, loves her mama and will always be daddy’s little girl.”

– Cameran Eubanks