For some reason, I decided to answer the phone. I walked the phone out to my mother-in-law who was enjoying some time with her grandkids. I handed her the phone without explaining why I felt compelled to cross a boundary.
Carolyn eagerly grabbed the phone and walked in. Not knowing that Hope was Grandma Dunn's nurse, I lingered in the garden taking photos of the kids feeding the horse and playing with the dog. After several minutes, I walked back inside to see a mistiness in Carolyn's eyes. Grandma Dunn had slipped out of bed and was in severe pain. Hope had been alerted by the ladies from church that make it a point to call the elderly members every morning at nine. The ambulance was coming and we would hear more once they arrived.
There was nothing more to do but wait.
My father-in-law was busy hammering away on the rooftop, installing new solar panels to the home that they had built in the 70s, back when this area was sparsely populated. Since then, they had done very little to the five acres that they have lived on for twenty six years. There is a shed that serves as a work room and every few years the road is paved, but nothing more. Jim tinkers and hides in the shed when I visit. We have an understanding, he and I.
We stay out of each other's way.
The phone rang several more times. Jim was now inside and I was thinking I might be in the way. I went to the store to get one last ingredient for the bread pudding I wanted to make. It was a pleasant drive and I had just enough time to myself to go back and take whatever unpleasant comments that man might fling my way. As I walked back up to the house, I noticed the work shed that had been standing there for five years. I peeked in and saw that this was the place that Jim came to have his quiet time. I felt a sharp sting as I thought of the times he escaped to this shed to avoid me.
I walked into the kitchen and, uncharacteristically quiet, began to bake.
The kids played outside while I prepared the ingredients. In between calls from the hospital, Carolyn and I chatted. She told me that bread pudding was Jim's favorite but that she rarely made it because she didn't much care for it. I thought about the fact that I had at least one thing in common with the grumpy old man that had raised my husband. I looked at the bruised bananas and hoped that Grandma Dunn wasn't in too much pain. I thought, too, how sweet the bananas smelled. Strange how until they are old and bruised does the true sweetness come through.
To ease my heart, I made this:
The day of calls from the hospital was long, but questions were being answered. Grandma Dunn, the doctor said, could not live on her own any longer. I watched as that reality became apparent on Carolyn's face. The heated Grand Marnier that I had drizzled into the vanilla sauce was blending with the aroma of the bananas and bread baking in the oven. Jim poked his head around the corner as I pulled the dish out.
"I hear you like bread pudding."
It was my peace offering that he accepted with a warm smile. There were bigger things to worry about than who was right and who was wrong and who would be left standing. We talked about his work shed and how nice it was to have a door to close when life got chaotic. In the background, Carolyn talked with her siblings about arrangements for Grandma. I poured the sauce over the bread and let it set. Later we would savor the pastry while dealing with the bitterness of an aging loved one.
RECIPE: Bread Pudding
4 Cups bread, cut into 3/4" pieces
2 ripe bananas
1/4 cup melted butter
1 can Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 package (3.4 oz) Vanilla cook and serve pudding
1 cup Carnation Evaporated Milk
(and I added a liberal splashing of Grand Marnier)
- Toss bread cubes with melted butter, put buttered bread cubes and
bananas in greased 2 quart casserole dish.
In a separate bowl beat the eggs, then add the milk, vanilla,
cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread and bananas.
Bake uncovered at 375 for 40 minutes or until knife inserted in the
center comes out clean.
For Sauce - follow instructions on pudding box. After it's finished
cooking and still hot, add one more cup of milk to make it thin and
- Pour warm sauce over bread pudding before serving.
- (Original recipe found on www.MyCookbook.com)